An epitaph, of interest to all politics junkies, for a formerly venerable party by a champion-turned-gravedigger.

IT WAS ALL A LIE

HOW THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECAME DONALD TRUMP

“Blame me”: A one-time Republican operative recounts the transformation of the big-tent GOP into an organ of white nationalism.

Stevens has been working in Republican politics for decades. Looking back at the age of 65, he regrets being “focused on winning without regard for the consequences.” Whereas a Republican presidential candidate could once expect to win between 30% and 40% of the black vote, that figure tumbled in the years after Barry Goldwater, when, successively, leaders like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan sounded racist dog whistles to get the votes of insecure Southern and rural whites. Stevens himself admits, “I played the race card in my very first race,” driving just those white voters into the arms of the GOP by highlighting the fact that an otherwise unknown black man was running as an independent for Congress. Fast-forward to the present, when the party is headed by a man whose values should be anathema to it: Like the man himself, the GOP is “addicted to debt and selling a false image of success.” While Stevens does not place all blame on the current president, he avers that “in retrospect, the Clinton presidency adhered to the values espoused for decades by Republicans far more than the Trump years.” Ouch! As for the party, Stevens writes that it’s nearly impossible to imagine a GOP that adheres to the values of “compassionate conservatism” advanced only two decades ago by George W. Bush or one that will stand up to a resurgent Russia. He closes by predicting that Republicans who have given Trump free rein will one day “look back on this period of their lives with a mixture of shame, sadness, and regret,” holding some dim hope for a return to the values of old by virtue of moderate Republican governors and state legislators.

An epitaph, of interest to all politics junkies, for a formerly venerable party by a champion-turned-gravedigger.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65845-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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