A decidedly minor, though occasionally entertaining, addition to the sad library of Trumpiana.



A former Trump staffer reveals what by now are mostly open secrets.

As Trump’s press secretary for eight months, Grisham famously held no press briefings—not that there was any shortage of news. One reason, it seems, was that keeping the press away was a good way to stay out of trouble. Her predecessor, Sean Spicer, drew ridicule on Day 1 for a patent lie: “Forcing Sean to claim that the inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s, which I imagine Sean also knew was bullshit, was a test. Trump always wanted to see how far you would go to do his bidding; it was his way of measuring your loyalty.” Grisham offers little hard news, but she dishes well. Trump emerges, as in practically every other account, as an enraged, lecherous ogre with a preadolescent brain and a complete lack of any ability to censor himself. Melania Trump bears the Secret Service code name Rapunzel “because she remained in her tower, never descending.” When she did, it was usually to commit some faux pas, like the “I really don’t care, do u?” jacket while on the way to visit incarcerated children on the border. (“What a stupid thing to do.”) Regarding other family members, Ivanka has the depth of an inflatable pool and Jared Kushner, a scheming nature that far transcends the term Machiavellian, with the two showing up at John McCain’s funeral just to be seen. All the “mostly middle-aged white dudes” who made up the Cabinet were useless in the face of events such as “one of our first huge embarrassing, insulting, tone-deaf disasters,” namely Trump’s abysmal response to the White supremacist march in Charlottesville. And so forth, with few surprises, thanks to a narrative path already paved by dozens of other books, save for its moral: In the Trump White House, “instead of focusing on getting productive work done, you just want to survive.”

A decidedly minor, though occasionally entertaining, addition to the sad library of Trumpiana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-314293-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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