A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

FREEDOM

The bestselling author explores the lure of nomadism.

At the age of 51, childless and soon to be divorced, Junger spent much of one year walking 400 miles alongside railroad lines in the eastern U.S. with a changing cast of three companions and his dog. They called their trek “the Last Patrol”: an escape, “a temporary injunction against whatever was coming,” and an interlude of freedom from the restrictions and demands of conventional life. Because the swaths of property alongside railroad lines were “the least monitored” land in the country, it seemed a safe choice for the wanderers, who did not want to be mistaken for vagrants. “Most nights,” Junger notes, “we were the only people in the world who knew where we were.” The author’s contemplative, digressive narrative combines vivid details of the walk, which was completed in several segments, with political, social, and cultural history; anthropology; and science. He ruminates on nomadic society, hunter-gatherers, Indigenous peoples, the perilous escapes of runaway slaves, various wars, and conflicts that include Cain’s jealousy of Abel and Ireland’s Easter uprising. Sometimes these musings involve considerations of freedom; not always. “Throughout history,” he writes, “good people and bad have maintained their freedom by simply staying out of reach of those who would deprive them of it. That generally meant walking a lot.” Nomadism has romantic appeal for Junger, just as, he claims, it has had for “the settled world.” To hunter-gatherers, working the land seemed a form of subservience; nomadic societies, asserts the author, were more equitable than societies centered around land ownership. Among hunter-gatherers, “although leaders understandably had more prestige than other people, they didn’t have more rights.” Although the trip did not yield epiphanies, Junger finally arrived at a place where he decided to stop wandering and step into his future. It was time “to face my life.”

A meandering chronicle of a year on the road.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982153-41-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more