by Peter McAllister ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2010
An amusing but troubling study of manhood, offering scant hope for improvement.
A paleoanthropologist offers a wry, dispiriting perspective on modern man.
McAllister (Anthropology. Univ. of Western Australia; Dracula Tooth, 2008, etc.) explains how his research opened up to him the nightmare of contemporary male inferiority: “I discovered, to my horror,” he writes, that “there’s nothing we can’t do that ancient men, and sometimes women, haven’t already done better, faster, stronger, and usually smarter.” He begins by opining that the man of 2010 is “the worst man in history,” in that historical narratives consistently suggest greater accomplishments by men of the ancient world, the Greco-Roman era and pre-agricultural societies. This is true in many categories, which he uses to organize the book: “Brawn,” “Battle,” “Beauty,” “Babes,” etc. In each chapter, McAllister bends his argument to the topic with an array of historical comparisons, which are certainly entertaining but occasionally arbitrary. In boxing and warfare, many earlier groups committed acts of bravery and ferocity that show up today’s ultimate fighters and even the training of America’s Special Forces. As for “Bravado,” Native American tribes such as the Sioux practiced brutal rituals that suggest great resistance to pain, and routinely tortured captives from rival tribes who bore such ordeals with contemptuous stoicism. The complex rituals of competitive beauty practiced by the African Wodaabe tribe puts to shame metrosexuals like David Beckham. Regarding erotic conquest, even Wilt Chamberlain withers next to the recorded behavior of ancient Indian kings. For McAllister, such disparate anecdotes lead to grim conclusions: “our sloth betrays not just our own genetic potential, but that of our sons too... we are sentencing them to a lifetime of brittle bones, weak tendons, and softened bodies and brains.” The author’s application of anthropological research is rigorous and the writing is sharp and often funny, but the overall approach proves repetitive.An amusing but troubling study of manhood, offering scant hope for improvement.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010
Page Count: 336
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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