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

I'LL TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS NOW

WHAT I SAW AT THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE

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 conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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

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PERIL

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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