An earnest analysis buoyed by debatable evidence.

THE DECADENT SOCIETY

HOW WE BECAME THE VICTIMS OF OUR OWN SUCCESS

A journalist sees materialism and complacency pervading contemporary life.

New York Times op-ed columnist and National Review film critic Douthat (To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, 2018, etc.) delivers an impassioned but not entirely convincing critique of American and European society, which he condemns as depressed, enervated, and bored, and he points to economic stagnation, cultural and intellectual exhaustion, and a dearth of technological and scientific marvels. According to Douthat, America’s space project was the last time technological prowess ignited the public’s imagination; now, instead of a shared vision of a “giant leap for mankind,” we are left with a sense of resignation. The domination of near monopolies quashes economic risk-taking and growth; “below-replacement fertility” portends a “sterile, aging world”; a polarized, sclerotic government is mired in gridlock; and a narrowing range of cultural offerings reflects widespread cultural malaise. Movies reprise “unoriginal stories based on intellectual properties that have strong brand recognition”; publishers depend on “recursive franchises and young-adult blockbusters”; and pop music reveals “a sharp decline in the diversity of chords in hit songs” and repetitive lyrics. Douthat acknowledges that readers, many of whom have heard similar arguments in countless recent books, may not be as distraught as he is. Despite social, political, and ecological problems, they may ask, “instead of bemoaning the inevitable flaws of our present situation, shouldn’t we work harder to celebrate its virtues”? The author thinks not. Although within a decadent society individuals can still “work toward renewal and renaissance”; although sustainable decadence “offers the ample benefits of prosperity with fewer of the risks that more disruptive eras offer,” still, he insists that “the unresisted drift of decadence leads, however slowly and comfortably, into a territory of darkness.” Describing himself as a believing Christian, Douthat underscores religion’s entanglement with decadence. No civilization, he writes, “has thrived without a confidence that there was more to the human story than just the material world as we understand it.” Underlying his call for change is an invocation to look “heavenward: toward God, toward the stars, or both.”

An earnest analysis buoyed by debatable evidence.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8524-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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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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