A gripping history of 75 years of Russian-American conflict with the dismal conclusion that we seem outmatched.

THE FOLLY AND THE GLORY

AMERICA, RUSSIA, AND POLITICAL WARFARE 1945-2020

Under Putin no less than Stalin, Russia represents America’s greatest threat, according to this unnervingly insightful history by the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian.

After 1945, unwilling to risk nuclear Armageddon, the U.S. and Soviet Union confined themselves to political warfare, meaning, as George Kennan wrote, “employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” This is not the same as nonviolence. As illustrated in Weiner’s National Book Award–winning history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes (2007), America’s first decades after the war featured elaborate, covert military actions, most of which flopped. After the news got out in the 1970s, the CIA dialed them back, but it was always true that CIA money and propaganda achieved far more than dirty tricks. To this point, the author’s account breaks little new ground; not so after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union. Weiner’s uncomfortably convincing opinion is that the U.S. screwed up royally, rubbing Russia’s nose in their failures and proclaiming that democracy had demonstrated its superiority. Aware that expanding NATO to the east would infuriate Russia’s new leaders, in 1990, Secretary of State James Baker promised never to do so—and then broke that promise. Ironically, Stalin’s paranoid vision of the West conspiring to surround his nation with enemies became true. Putin took power in 2000 with the aim of making Russian great again. Unable to match America’s massive military, he created an immense intelligence and cyberwarfare establishment that, after flexing its muscles by crippling nearby nations, has concentrated on the U.S. Weiner then delivers a dismaying account of the avalanche of hacking, disinformation, and social media manipulation that began in 2014 with the object of sowing dissention. The author astutely observes that this strategy involves keeping Trump in office, and there’s no doubt of Trump’s fervent and frightening subservience to the Russian leader.

A gripping history of 75 years of Russian-American conflict with the dismal conclusion that we seem outmatched.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-085-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 5, 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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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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