PARLIAMENT OF WHORES

A LONE HUMORIST ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN THE ENTIRE U.S. GOVERNMENT

Is there anything funny left to say about our government? O'Rourke seems to think so, and here offers a fractured civics lesson in support of his notion that ``freedom is its own best punishment.'' It's hard to disagree with O'Rourke's contempt for the ``boring'' business of ``giving money to jerks''—the main business, he says, of government these days. But his gonzo libertarianism, while suited to the pages of Rolling Stone (where much of this first appeared), is mainly a disguise for lots of familiar right-wing nostrums. Fortunately, O'Rourke bolsters his tired rhetoric with his own brand of inspired anti-reporting, and also with lots of good old name-calling. No civic booster, O'Rourke celebrates our ``national mindlessness'' and our exceptional interest in ``the pursuit of happiness.'' Washington, though, seems dedicated to robbing its citizens, and then doling out the spoils to whoever sticks out his hand and shouts the loudest. O'Rourke's highly selective fact-gathering takes him to the South Bronx with Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa in order to understand urban poverty; to the D.C. ghetto on a crack bust to witness the war on drugs; to the Department of Transportation to appreciate the folly of bureaucracy; and to Afghanistan (almost) to see US foreign policy in splendid disarray. A stint aboard a missile cruiser reveals his weakness for big weapons—''This is the way to waste government money.'' O'Rourke saves his best shots for ``the Perennially Indignant'' among housing advocates and environmentalists, and kicks around the slimier players in the S&L scandals. But the ``special interest'' group he really slams is us, since all of us manage one way or another to stick our snouts into the government trough. If nothing else, O'Rourke has well earned his place among American humorists as the cracked voice of rock-and-roll Republicanism.

Pub Date: June 20, 1991

ISBN: 0-87113-455-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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