An appealingly nostalgic view of a political past unriven by political tribalism, chronicled by a reporter with an eye on...

CHASING HISTORY

A KID IN THE NEWSROOM

Journalist Bernstein casts a sometimes appreciative, sometimes condemnatory eye on covering the Washington, D.C., of old, from Jim Crow to Camelot.

Best known as Bob Woodward’s partner in cracking the Watergate conspiracy, Bernstein grew up with ink in his blood. Even as a child he was obsessed with newspapers—and it was a golden age for newspaper readers, with nearly every city in the country hosting at least two rival publications. Until the early 1980s, Washington had two dailies: the Washington Post and the Evening Star. As a high schooler, Bernstein bluffed his way into a copyboy position at the latter: “What the copyboys did…was anything the reporters or editors asked. They pretty much made it possible for the whole place to function.” His winning trait? Not any writing ability but a phenomenal typing speed, learned in a class that got him out of shop class. The whole of Washington became Bernstein’s beat, guided by skilled editors who sent him on assignments such as covering the parade at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration with the warning, “Be there at six a.m. Schaden will be the rewrite man. Don’t try to write—just tell him what you saw.” The author’s reminiscences of old-school journalism—with its chaotic newsrooms, hot type, and guarded friendships among sources and writers—will please newspaper buffs, those who read the memoirs of H.L. Mencken and Joseph Mitchell. Of wider interest is Bernstein’s depiction of Washington in a time of desegregation and racial turmoil, when city officials drained public pools “rather than allow Black families to swim in them.” Of being raised in D.C., the author writes, “I thought sometimes, [it] was akin to living in a small town that also happened to be the capital of the United States. Washingtonians had a kind of double vision of these people—as ordinary neighbors, but also as historic figures.” Bernstein is now one such figure, and his book bears that weight.

An appealingly nostalgic view of a political past unriven by political tribalism, chronicled by a reporter with an eye on history.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62779-150-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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