A well-meaning but disappointingly dull slice of an otherwise dramatic era in American political history.

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BAG MAN

THE WILD CRIMES, AUDACIOUS COVER-UP, AND SPECTACULAR DOWNFALL OF A BRAZEN CROOK IN THE WHITE HOUSE

MSNBC host Maddow and producer Yarvitz present a book version of their podcast about the misdeeds of former vice president Spiro Agnew.

Given the continuing malfeasance emanating from seemingly every corner of the Trump White House, the text is certainly relevant. However, as with many podcast-to-book translations, the narrative doesn’t quite engage on the same level. This by-the-numbers dip into the murky waters of American political corruption does serve as a welcome reminder that, unlike today, in the case of Agnew, political crimes were actually punished (and in a nonpartisan fashion). Although Agnew is more or less a political/historical footnote, the authors note that he had the dishonorable distinction of being the only sitting vice president ever convicted of a felony. His crime was tax evasion, but he had also taken bribes and kickbacks during a previous stint in local Maryland politics. In 1973, Agnew became the only vice president to resign from office in disgrace; yet because he was not part of Nixon’s inner circle, he had nothing to do with the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Despite a professed patriotic love of America, he just didn’t want to pay his fair share in taxes. Despite the sensationalist subtitle and hip, often lively tone, the narrative fails to make Agnew’s story any more riveting than a long-form magazine article—or podcast. The authors clearly did their due diligence when it comes to research, but while they make some effort to present Agnew’s attack-dog political tactics as the precedent for Trump’s tirades against anyone who opposes him, this connection is not emphasized enough. It’s also commendable that Maddow and Yarvitz spotlight the long-unsung prosecutorial team that took down Agnew, but the description and pacing of the trial scenes make that section feel anticlimactic.

A well-meaning but disappointingly dull slice of an otherwise dramatic era in American political history.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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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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