An engaging and inviting study of humanity’s long-standing fear of the other.

THE MONARCHY OF FEAR

A PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT OUR POLITICAL CRISIS

A philosopher considers Trumpism through the lens of history, classical thought, and a bit of Hamilton.

Like any clearheaded thinker, Nussbaum (Law and Ethics/Univ. of Chicago; Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice, 2016, etc.) was unsettled by Trump’s election, but she’s troubled also by the way people of all political persuasions have succumbed to fear and mindless fear-slinging. She tries to keep Trump at arm's length and focus instead on what philosophers and psychologists going back to antiquity have had to say about fear (“genetically first among the emotions”), its role in stoking anger, disgust, and envy, and how those emotions in turn perpetuate divisive politics (sexism and misogyny especially). That approach gives this important book both up-to-the-moment relevance and long-view gravitas. Athenian debates over wiping out enemies, for instance, reveal the enduring ways that “fear can be manipulated by true and false information.” For centuries, irrational fear about others being unclean and untouchable has been shaped into discriminatory policy and violence. Envy has long provoked attitudes of one-upmanship that support systemic oppression or foolish practices like dueling—Nussbaum writes at length about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical in this context, focusing on Aaron Burr’s and Alexander Hamilton’s competitive natures. But while the author generally takes the long view on these conflagrations, she also wrestles with contemporary rhetoric and social media. Unlike the Stoics and Cynics of the past (or her more emotionally cool contemporaries), she’s more willing to subscribe to hope and faith as solutions, using Martin Luther King Jr. as a key exemplar. Her main prescription for fixing a fear-struck America is straightforward: effectively making AmeriCorps mandatory, an act that “would put young citizens into close contact with people different in age, ethnicity, and economic level.” Nothing would do more to eradicate fear of the other, she argues, though she acknowledges that America at the moment would be too scared to pull it off.

An engaging and inviting study of humanity’s long-standing fear of the other.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7249-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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