A potent cautionary tale for pandemic preparedness.

THE DESPERATE HOURS

ONE HOSPITAL'S FIGHT TO SAVE A CITY ON THE PANDEMIC'S FRONT LINES

An urgent account of how Covid-19 created nearly insurmountable challenges to a famed hospital system.

In a book based on more than 200 interviews conducted over 18 months, Vanity Fair writer at large Brenner creates a tense, stirring picture of the impact of Covid-19 on New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s campuses in New York City, Westchester County, and the Hudson Valley. In the first months of the pandemic, the city’s “most elite hospital system” faced frustration and uncertainty. Little was known about the disease’s cause, treatment, and prognosis; hospitals faced a stunning lack of supplies; doctors and nurses were overwhelmed and grief-stricken by deaths they could not prevent; and they were constantly undermined by decisions at the federal, state, and city levels. The CDC’s “antediluvian” structures made the agency unable “to quickly gather, process, and interpret data,” and states were forced to compete for supplies. When FEMA sent ventilators, they turned out to be old and broken. By mid-March, the hospital had 90,000 masks on hand, a number it needed each day. In its search for protective gear, the hospital found a “profiteering and counterfeit market” allowed to flourish because of a lack of federal leadership. Tests, when they could be found, were unreliable, but the CDC and the Trump administration refused to authorize the import of reliable tests from outside the U.S. As late as June, with cases in New York City soaring, doctors and nurses were unable to get tests for themselves; even when available, processing them “was chaos.” Brenner reveals, as well, the conflicts between staff and “their corporate masters,” who punished health providers if they spoke out about the hospital’s challenges and failures. The author’s probing investigation includes animated profiles of a large cast of characters, creating a palpable sense of trauma, pain, and vulnerability in what one cardiologist characterized as nothing less than war. The casualties, Brenner shows, encompassed far more than the patients who died.

A potent cautionary tale for pandemic preparedness.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-80573-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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