Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.

DONALD TRUMP AND HIS ASSAULT ON TRUTH

THE PRESIDENT'S FALSEHOODS, MISLEADING CLAIMS, AND FLAT-OUT LIES

All politicians lie. But the current occupant of the White House? Yikes….

Kessler, editor of the Washington Post “Fact Checker” column, allows that every recent president is associated with “one big lie”—e.g., not having sex with “that woman,” fudging about overflights over the Soviet Union, dismissing concerns about illness. Donald Trump is transcendent. He is, by Kessler and his colleagues’ account, “the most mendacious president in U.S. history,” the author not of one big and sometimes necessary lie but of thousands of little, useless ones. As of the third anniversary of his inauguration, they reckon, the lie count was 16,241—which means that Trump publicly lied 15 times per day on average, though some days were richer than others, such as November 5, 2018, which rang in 139 false claims. The lies are part of a program of an attack on truth, the authors assert, and given that “Republicans have grown less concerned about presidents being honest than they were a decade ago,” the lies find a willing audience. Parsing those 16,241 lies, the Post staffers calculate that immigration is the single subject most liable to be lied about, “accounting for 15 percent of the total…we fact-checked in the first three years of Trump’s presidency.” But everything else is fair game, too, with concomitant fits of projection—accusing others of lying, for instance—and refusal to accept responsibility for anything except the rare success. Then there are the simple misunderstandings, as when he called his impeachment “illegal and unconstitutional” even though, Kessler and company observe, “it’s literally spelled out in the Constitution.” Most valuable, in this rather depressing catalog of untruths, are the fact checkers’ point-by-point analyses, lie by lie, of the relative falsehoods uttered, measured by “Pinocchios.” They even give Trump credit for those extremely unusual moments when his outbursts are “mostly accurate.”

Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982151-07-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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