An engaging pursuit through history and geography, terminating in the human heart of darkness.

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WILLOUGHBYLAND

ENGLAND'S LOST COLONY

A varied, often fascinating search for the history and remains of England’s 17th-century South American colony in what is now Suriname.

Freelance journalist Parker (Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica, 2015, etc.) begins and ends in today’s Suriname, where he can find virtually no remains of England’s once-flourishing colony, which began with tobacco and then segued to sugar. Necessary, all these centuries later, is much back story, including tales of the English civil war, the Restoration, and the major European powers (England, France, Spain, Netherlands) competing in the New World. The author carefully weaves these essential colors throughout the tapestry of his text and also attends to other significant matters, including Europeans’ attitudes regarding indigenous peoples, women, religion, royalty, and slavery. Parker delivers a colorful cast of characters, principal among them Francis Willoughby, a titled Englishman who danced near the edge of a deadly ravine throughout his life (shifting politics and loyalties) but who eventually gained control of a rich chunk of terrain in northern South America, where he established his colony, returned to England to enlist more settlers, and then did not return for a decade. As the author points out—and emphasizes near the end—all went more or less smoothly for a while, unless, of course, you were indigenous or brought to the colony as a slave. The relevant colonial powers actually co-existed peacefully for a time, and Willoughbyland grew. Then there were significant international disputes back in Europe and illness—oddly, brought to the colony by Willoughby himself on his return. Furthermore, as Parker ably emphasizes, old-fashioned greed and religious and political divisions awoke, and all began to implode, though the Netherlands kept control until 1975. Parker also relates the sundry involvement of writer Aphra Behn.

An engaging pursuit through history and geography, terminating in the human heart of darkness.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11283-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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