MIDNIGHT IN SICILY

ON ART, FOOD, HISTORY, TRAVEL, AND LA COSA NOSTRA

If it's true, as the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia once said, that Sicily is a metaphor for the modern world, then author Robb has plumbed the depths of the world. Midnight in Sicily is a work from another age and era. Perhaps only in the 18th and 19th centuries would a foreigner have attempted to write about art, food, history, travel, and the Mafia together. But it soon becomes apparent that in the hands of Robb the landscape of Sicily becomes a metaphor for its history; history is inextricably tied to food; food is inseparable from art. Again, it takes a foreigner to see Italy and Sicily in clearer terms than the Sicilians and Italians themselves. The heart of darkness in this tale is Giulio Andreotti, the most powerful politician in postwar Italy: seven-time prime minister and once hailed as the greatest political mind since Bismarck. Ironically, Andreotti is a Roman who sold his soul in Sicily in a Faustian bargain to secure a political power base from which to rule Italy practically undisturbed for decades. Robb, who has written for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, masterfully recreates scenes as benevolent as friends enjoying a meal or as diabolical as Andreotti's meeting with the most brutal crime boss in all of Italy. There are shrewd insights (``Beyond a certain threshold, power erases embarrassment''); telling phrases (Andreotti, leader of the Christian Democrats, is called a ``sacristy rat''); and deep political/historical revelations (such as Cosa Nostra's permanent aim of eliminating the historic memory built up by those few who've understood that Cosa Nostra was a state within a state). A barbecue becomes an occasion for a learned excursus on the history of the fork. This narrative is itself an eclectic and sumptuous meal that- -through no fault of the author's—leaves the diner with a bitter taste in the mouth.

Pub Date: March 19, 1998

ISBN: 0-571-19932-1

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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