With an entertaining insider’s perspective, Littlefield transports readers back to a seemingly magical time when half the...

TOP OF THE ROCK

INSIDE THE RISE AND FALL OF MUST SEE TV

Frank oral history of a golden age of TV programming.

With the assistance of novelist Pearson (Warwolf, 2011, etc.), former NBC president of entertainment Littlefield gathers candid comments from actors, executives and behind-the-scenes people responsible for some of the most successful TV shows of the 1990s. The subjects relate everything from their struggles to make it in the entertainment industry to dealing with the type of overnight fame that many of them eventually enjoyed. In particular, the book focuses on the cast and crew of Seinfeld and Friends, programs that dealt with early hardships before later enjoying unabashed success. Perhaps the most scandalous aspect of the book, however, is Littlefield’s willingness to throw his former boss Don Ohlmeyer under the bus. Ohlmeyer, who apparently understood very little about TV, arrived at NBC after Littlefield had been there for years and assumed a position above him in the corporate hierarchy. While his struggles with addiction and subsequent stint in rehab are a matter of public record, many of the interviews here shed light on the significance of the daily frustrations of Ohlmeyer’s battle with alcoholism. Interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Lisa Kudrow, among others, are particularly interesting because they worked with NBC both in front of and behind the camera. None of the interviewees shy away from negative topics, including the letdowns of test-screening results and executives not realizing which shows would later become hits.

With an entertaining insider’s perspective, Littlefield transports readers back to a seemingly magical time when half the country would watch the same show.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53374-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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