Digressive, amusing, anecdotal, legend-shattering, self-deprecating and passionate—just what you want in a friend sitting...



Veteran conservative political pundit Will (One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation, 2009, etc.) writes an affectionate birthday card to the home of his beloved Chicago Cubs.

The author, who has written often about baseball (Bunts: Pete Rose, Curt Flood, Camden Yards and Other Reflections on Baseball, 1997, etc.) as well as issuing his periodic poundings of liberals and celebrations of conservatives, traces his Cub fandom back to 1948, when he was 7. He notes that since his birth, the Cubs are nearly 700 games below .500, a sad record that in a perverse way unites their fans. (Will compares the Cubs to Miss Havisham, the jilted bride in Great Expectations.) This is not a traditional, chronological history but an emotional one; in fact, greedy readers will find little about the construction of the place—though there is a nice little section about the decision to plant ivy to crawl along the outfield wall. Along the way, readers will learn about a baseball-related shooting that inspired Bernard Malamud’s The Natural (1952), some history of the odd Wrigley family, the relationship between beer and attendance at baseball games, some discoveries by baseball statistician Bill James, the surprising news that Jack Ruby (yes, he who shot Lee Harvey Oswald) once was a vendor at Wrigley and that the Cubs used to train on Santa Catalina Island. Of course, it wouldn’t be George-Will-on-baseball without allusions to Dickens, Aristotle and some other luminaries. He dispels a few myths along the way. For example, the famed double-play combo (Tinker to Evers to Chance) actually turned two very rarely, and he waxes philosophical a bit, ruminating about how fandom is like tribalism.

Digressive, amusing, anecdotal, legend-shattering, self-deprecating and passionate—just what you want in a friend sitting beside you at the ballpark.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-34931-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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