An authoritative overview of Pope Francis’ challenge to American hegemony.

GOD'S DIPLOMATS

POPE FRANCIS, VATICAN DIPLOMACY, AND AMERICA’S ARMAGEDDON

A Roman Catholic journalist surveys the diplomatic agenda of Pope Francis in this political book.

Since the United States colonization of the Catholic-majority Philippines, writes Gaetan, the U.S.–Vatican relationship has been defined by “mutual skepticism between empires with deeply divergent worldviews.” Even when there have been moments of public cooperation, such as President Ronald Reagan’s partnership with Pope John Paul II in the Polish Solidarity movement, the Vatican’s refusal to “defer to the American view” of international relations has consistently defined their relationship. Even more than his predecessors, Pope Francis has vocally challenged America’s moral standing on issues that range from climate change and immigration to global finance and international arms deals. And though President Barack Obama’s relationship with the pontiff was “largely respectful,” the author describes a clandestine intelligence campaign spearheaded by the U.S. to discredit Jorge Bergoglio in the years preceding his becoming Pope Francis. But it was during President Donald Trump’s administration when Washington’s previously hushed critiques of the Vatican came to the fore. In particular, Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon (a paradoxical “thrice-divorced” traditional Catholic) launched a multimillion-dollar tour of European capitals and a right-wing media blitz to discredit Pope Francis. While the American establishment’s distrust of the Vatican is well covered in this engaging narrative, what makes this book special is its disclosure of the “behind-the-scenes” and “discreet” diplomatic actions of Pope Francis in China, Africa, and Eastern Europe that reveal the chasm of differences that exists between American and Vatican foreign policy. In a series of case studies of specific, 21st-century international conflicts, Gaetan convincingly demonstrates the pope’s keen diplomatic talents that effectively exploited “America’s loss of prestige” to pursue “alternative solutions” to world peace. As an international correspondent for the National Catholic Registerand contributor to Foreign Affairs, the author blends his expertise of geopolitics with access to the Vatican’s inner circles. This is an impressively well-researched book that features interviews with leading diplomatic insiders as well as information from the U.S. and Vatican archives. Though perhaps unnecessarily ad hominemin its barbs against the pope’s right-wing critics, this work delivers a superb analysis of his often unheralded diplomacy.

An authoritative overview of Pope Francis’ challenge to American hegemony.

Pub Date: July 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5381-5014-6

Page Count: 476

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2022

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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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