Red meat for politics watchers, unsparing in its depiction of a time of torment.



Newsworthy look at the last months of the Trump White House and the first of the Biden administration.

Early in the pages of this hard-hitting account by New York Times reporters Martin and Burns, the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee voices doubt that Donald Trump was interested in or even capable of mounting a coup, adding, “my perception is, he is a fucking moron.” The events of Jan. 6, 2021, told a different story. Trump had never even bothered to pretend that he governed for all Americans, instead cultivating a reactionary, rural, White base and an ethos within the White House that followed “the logic of a protection racket, more or less.” That Joe Biden won while Republicans gained seats in Congress speaks to the ineptitude of Trump and company. Still, as the authors observe, Biden has had difficulty shaping a coherent message, some of it perhaps caused by his initial uncertainty about whether his running mate was right for the job. “During the primary,” write the authors, “Biden privately and repeatedly shared versions of a common observation about [Kamala] Harris: She doesn’t seem to know who she wants to be.” Martin and Burns deliver plenty of news, such as Lindsey Graham’s demand that Trump call off the Capitol rioters or face the invocation of the 25th Amendment. The authors also offer nuanced portraits of some of the key players in this saga: Mitch McConnell, ever exercising a political calculus by which he could deem Trump a “despicable human being” yet twice vote against impeaching him; Kevin McCarthy, so hungry for power that he allowed that Trump bore responsibility for the coup attempt yet rushed to declare fealty to the boss; Lisa Murkowski, who expressed wonder that so many Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen and questions that calculus of McConnell’s, saying of the impeachment vote, “I wish that it had been different.”

Red meat for politics watchers, unsparing in its depiction of a time of torment.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982172-48-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


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.


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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