Sharp, brazen, and undeniably controversial.

THE PROBLEM WITH EVERYTHING

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE NEW CULTURE WARS

A sweeping critique of the “wokescenti.”

Award-winning essayist, memoirist, and novelist Daum (The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, 2014, etc.), recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, takes on fourth-wave feminism, victimhood, identity politics, #MeToo, social media, ideological warfare on college campuses, and assorted other irritants in a culture that is “effectively mentally ill.” Social media, asserts the author, creates an echo chamber where people lie to one another and eagerly wait for friends to lie back. “I am convinced,” she writes, “the culture is effectively being held hostage by its own hyperbole. So enthralled with our outrage at the extremes, we’ve forgotten that most of the world exists in the mostly unobjectionable middle.” Examining displays of outrage as public performance, she writes that “the search for grievance has become a kind of political obligation, an activist gesture.” Accusations of sexism, sexual harassment, or assault, she believes, foster women’s image of themselves as victims rather than individuals “capable of making mistakes”; in making such accusations, women “literally hand men their own power.” Rather than see the gender wage gap as evidence of sexism, Daum suggests “that there are biological differences between male and female brains that can influence women’s professional decisions.” She also criticizes “the left-leaning chatterati” who praised Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as engaging in “self-congratulatory reverence,” wondering “if my white friends and colleagues who venerated Coates actually liked his work or just liked the idea of liking it.” This suspicion of other people’s authenticity underlies much of the book: Daum admits that when she was an undergraduate in the midst of student uprisings, she “often felt like I was impersonating a college student…I had a hard time believing other people were actually for real.” Now middle-aged, divorced, childless by choice, and feeling increasingly marginal, the author is dismayed by those whose energetic engagement with social and cultural problems fuels “the exquisite lie of our own relevance.”

Sharp, brazen, and undeniably controversial.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982129-33-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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