A thoroughly engrossing examination of the Internet’s past, present, and future.

MAGIC AND LOSS

THE INTERNET AS ART

New York Times Magazine writer Heffernan considers the mighty Internet in all its terrible beauty and power.

As a member of a pre-millennial generation that can rightly say its maturation process paralleled the Internet’s own, the author is in excellent position to declare early on, “if it’s ever fair to say that anything has ‘changed everything,’ it’s fair to say so about the Internet.” Heffernan’s digital odyssey began personally and warmly in the glow of an inchoate social networking platform at Dartmouth College called “Conference XYZ,” which the author used while still a preteen. The ensuing decades have only served to deepen the author’s initial wonder with the Internet. Deeply contemplating the aesthetic meaning behind the Internet’s early interface, Heffernan exercises the same sort of intellectual curiosity more commonly ascribed to things like string theory and quantum physics. She similarly treats popular time killers like “Angry Birds” and “Frisbee.” “But when things settle down in reality, the Frisbee game is too exciting,” writes the author. “It does nothing to teach the all-important patience and tolerance for boredom that are central to learning.” The author’s cerebral, literary approach also informs her discussion of YouTube’s inaugural clip from 2005, titled “Me At The Zoo,” in which one of the site’s founders vaguely talks about elephants at the San Diego Zoo. Heffernan, however, is also sober about the Internet’s negative aspects. At one point, she calls it a “graphic mess…designed to weaken, confound, and pickpocket you.” Still, the author steadfastly defends the Internet from myopic critics who are all too happy to jeer it. “Asking what’s to become of poetry in the age of Twitter is like asking what will become of music in the age of guitars,” she writes. In melding the personal with the increasingly universal, Heffernan delivers a highly informative analysis of what the Internet is—and can be.

A thoroughly engrossing examination of the Internet’s past, present, and future.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9170-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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