A new playbook for Democratic messaging with a bite and a sting.

BATTLING THE BIG LIE

HOW FOX, FACEBOOK, AND THE MAGA MEDIA ARE DESTROYING AMERICA

The co-host of Pod Save America examines the sweeping disinformation practices of Republicans and their media allies.

“If Democrats and the media do not fight back against the right-wing media machine bent on division and destruction, democracy has no chance of surviving,” writes Pfeiffer, who served as a senior adviser to Barack Obama during his second term. Hard words, but hardly alarmist given the evidence the author assembles. Though many believe this disinformation machine is a recent development, Pfeiffer recounts a smear campaign from 2004 mounted against South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, in which the GOP falsely claimed that Daschle had promised to return the Black Hills to the Sioux Nation if Sioux leaders delivered the votes necessary for him to win the election. Daschle narrowly lost, forcing Pfeiffer to rethink the conventional rules—e.g., don’t feed the beast by dignifying lies with a response. The author argues convincingly that the biggest beast is Fox and Friends, which “has all the accoutrements of a typical news program while being a right-wing clown show.” Fox News, he writes, is a wholly partisan wing of the Republican Party. “And here’s the most disturbing thing: there is a market for ‘crazier than Fox.’ These networks were able to siphon off some of Fox’s audience, and now they are in a race to the bottom,” writes the author. Pfeiffer is a master of cutting derogation: “Arkansas senator Tom Cotton makes Jared Kushner look like a magnetic personality”; “[Jerome] Corsi is a well-known nutcase and a shitty writer, but when your campaign is trying to elect a Black man with the middle name ‘Hussein,’ no threat can be ignored.” He proposes a recalibrated journalism to counter the Republican machine, with plank points such as “Build Immunity to the Big Lie” and “Build Trust,” but whose overarching, sensible argument is to abandon the pretense of balance in favor of “a progressive propaganda operation that can go toe-to-toe with the Right.”

A new playbook for Democratic messaging with a bite and a sting.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-0797-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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