Students of geopolitics and world history will find Fukuyama’s thoughts both provocative and inspiring.

AFTER THE END OF HISTORY

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRANCIS FUKUYAMA

Conversations with the noted scholar of political theory.

Fukuyama became well known in 1989, a time when the communist world was collapsing and the Berlin Wall was coming down, for arguing that liberal democracy had won out over totalitarianism by its own self-evident virtues. He is less certain today, as these conversations with Norwegian think-tank administrator Fasting reveal. He began to take note of some of the inherent “weaknesses in Western political development” even as his “end-of-history” thesis was making the rounds, especially among the Cold War triumphalists in the Reagan and Bush administrations. One outcome of the financial crisis of 2008 was the acceleration of a body of left-behinds who were susceptible to populist and authoritarian leaders. Those left-behinds were not lacking in reasons to mistrust those in power, who, Fukuyama notes, “can game the system in such a way that they really make the system not responsive to the people’s true wishes,” working against the spirit of democracy itself. Things are worse elsewhere, of course, such as Russia, where Vladimir Putin has traded in a kind of “sovereign democracy” brand of populism that has found a large following in White nationalist circles—some in the U.S. Still, America has not proven immune to leaders who would diminish democratic values and profess a kind of populism that “basically uses democratic legitimacy to undermine liberal institutions.” Can democracy endure? Fukuyama suggests at various points that inequality must be addressed and corporate power diminished, the latter by enforcing long-abandoned antitrust laws. He also observes that the voters who made Donald Trump’s term possible “are a declining group within the country as a whole,” not likely to have the same clout in the future, even as new opponents—China, social media, predatory capitalism—do their best to diminish the rule of the people.

Students of geopolitics and world history will find Fukuyama’s thoughts both provocative and inspiring.

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64712-086-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Georgetown Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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