A striking refresher course that will leave readers with a renewed hunger for justice regarding the pandemic.

CORONAVIRUS CRIMINALS AND PANDEMIC PROFITEERS

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR THOSE WHO CAUSED THE CRISIS

A laundry list of pandemic woes that is sure to alarm as much as it angers and informs its readers.

For nearly two years, Covid-19 has dominated headlines. It’s understandable if Americans can’t keep up, but according to the Nation national-affairs correspondent Nichols, what’s more perplexing is the lack of outrage at leadership for rampant incompetence and greed. They not only cost lives; they squandered opportunities to step up when the nation needed guidance. In all, 18 guilty parties, from Pfizer to Jeff Bezos, make the cut. In some cases, it was a family affair. Consider Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the severity of the virus (“Trump made his presidency America’s pre-existing condition. He lied, and Americans died”) or his ill-fated appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to head the virus task force. Then there's Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell. Chao refused to enact safety protocols for the department of transportation, while McConnell demanded a no lawsuits clause ahead of relief laws, cawing “no liability shield, no relief.” There are also solo acts such as Betsy DeVos, who used her department of education position to bolster privatization efforts, and, of course, Vice President Mike Pence, who resurrected his villainous role from the days of the AIDS crisis as a denier, earning him a “desperate little man” designation. Lest readers presume this is a pile-on manifesto with Republicans as the only targets, the book is mostly balanced. Andrew Cuomo receives castigation for his misinformation that led to nursing home deaths, and Nichols also calls out Rahm Emmanuel for offshoring efforts so severe that logistical mazes stalled much-needed supply delivery efforts. At the end, the author delivers the inevitable call to action: We must demand accountability and end impunity, and “the guilty must be named and shamed” and “consigned to the ash heap of history.”

A striking refresher course that will leave readers with a renewed hunger for justice regarding the pandemic.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-83976-377-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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 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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