A no-nonsense retort to the notion that we live in a time of abundant information.

GHOSTING THE NEWS

LOCAL JOURNALISM AND THE CRISIS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

A dire warning on the decline of daily newspapers and the danger that their disappearance poses for democracy.

Anybody who follows the media business is familiar with the broad outline of the problem the author lays out in this unapologetically dour book: Newspapers have shuttered with distressing speed in recent years—more than 2,000 since 2004, she reports—and many of the ones that remain are shadows of their former selves. Sullivan, a media columnist at the Washington Post, used to be the top editor at one of those, the Buffalo Evening News, and she shares her own glimpses of the decline. However, the author’s goal isn’t to lament the good old days of once-mighty businesses. Instead, she trains her eyes on the “news deserts” that now litter the landscape and voices concern about how corruption will consume communities that no longer have media watchdogs. For instance, the Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio, used to send reporters to all area school-board meetings, a manager told her, and “people knew that…and they behaved.” But now TV news and online outlets aren’t picking up the slack, and though nonprofit news sources have emerged, they don’t have the reach or stability that newspapers once claimed. Combine that with social media platforms that allow misinformation to spread, and it’s no wonder local civic discourse has degraded into meme-vs.-meme slap fights. (Sullivan is careful to note that this is hardly just an American problem.) What to do? The author chronicles her discussions with the leaders of some promising startups and considers more radical ideas, such as federal subsidies for media. But her glass is resolutely half-empty: She predicts that “American politics will become even more polarized; government and business corruption will flourish, the glue that holds communities together will weaken."

A no-nonsense retort to the notion that we live in a time of abundant information.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73362-378-0

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

more