A mostly bipartisan satire that caters to the lowest common denominator on both sides.

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AMERICAN FREAK SHOW

Chat-show host takes aim at American celebrity culture and modern politics.

MSNBC veteran Geist (Morning Joe) graduated from producing that network's The Situation with Tucker Carlson to writing and eventually co-hosting the popular morning show. While his TV antics (campaigning for McCain-Palin on New York’s Upper West Side) might seem iconoclastic on-air, this low-brow, tepid collection of brief satiric essays leaves much to be desired. The book opens with a gig that was tired on SNL a year ago: the inaugural address of President Sarah Palin, delivered during an episode of World Wrestling Entertainment's Monday Night Raw. “The last time I checked, Ronald Reagan beat the Communists a long time ago. Oh, and get me an egg roll while you’re up,” and “You abort an unborn child, we abort you,” are two of her tasteless, if believable bons mots. But wait, it gets worse. Ever wanted to sit in on Tiger Woods’ sex-addiction group-therapy sessions? It’s here, complete with Wilt Chamberlain (really?), Charlie Sheen and God’s own Ted Haggard. Obama gets a visit from the ghosts of presidents past (“What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I ended the Cold War today. Game over,” from the aforementioned Gipper). Other selections include “Hillary’s Private Campaign E-mails,” between herself and her husband, which are even more tiresome than they sound: “Trying to remind everyone that he’s a black guy who loves blow. What else?” Hillary moans near the bitter end. The beatification of Oprah, a roast of Bernie Madoff in Hell and a Parenting magazine interview with Kate Gosselin ensue. A parody of the George Bush presidential library is a particularly easy target. Sprinkled with true stories that feel culled from Darwin Awards rejects, this compilation makes Al Franken’s parodies seem almost senatorial.

A mostly bipartisan satire that caters to the lowest common denominator on both sides.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2394-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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