A forthright indictment of the media’s shortcomings.



A former journalist’s memoir serves as a call to reinvigorate investigative reporting.

Lawyer and mediator Smith, a former New York Times Washington correspondent, mounts a sharp critique of journalism in his frank, often digressive debut memoir. Smith contends that “suppression of news is alive and well, even at the New York Times,” reflecting both editorial bias and the media’s cozy relationship to those in power. “Power,” writes the author, “oozing from the paper, forms a protective barrier around its correspondents and editors. People shy away from offending Times reporters,” fearing bad publicity. Smith recounts an accomplished career: education, jobs, salient assignments, and battles won and lost. The son of Eastern European immigrants, he attended the prestigious Boston Public Latin School, went on to Harvard, spent a year in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, and continued his education at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Characterizing himself as naïve, he was disillusioned when, working at Time magazine, he saw news manipulated to fit the publications’s conservative views. Smith also encountered suppression elsewhere, including the Boston Herald and the Times. Central to the memoir is one traumatizing incident: With evidence from a trusted source, he learned about the Watergate break-in, but when he brought the story to his editor at the Times, it was ignored, to his astonishment and dismay. The paper’s failure—or refusal—to cover the story “was the result of conscious bias,” he insists, which still shapes whatever the paper sees fit to print and has evolved into “reflexive, unconscious bias” that, he believes, thwarts its efforts to effectively undercut critics like Donald Trump. Frustrated with reporting, Smith opted for the law. In the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of Yale Law School, he began to see the world not as black and white but “a dubious gray.” Smith cautions readers to watch out for bias, ask who is reporting, and consider outside pressures that influence a paper’s focus.

A forthright indictment of the media’s shortcomings.

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4930-5771-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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 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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