A gentleman scholar and scold, Will continues to wield his sharp, discerning prose.

AMERICAN HAPPINESS AND DISCONTENTS

THE UNRULY TORRENT, 2008-2020

An overstuffed collection of the conservative columnist’s reviews and rarefied reflections from the Washington Post, geared toward his enduring “intellectually upscale” readers.

Organized by themes—American history, politics, baseball, obituaries, and books by favorite authors such as Max Hastings, Ron Chernow, and Rick Atkinson—this latest gathering of Will’s writing aspires to what he calls “trenchant elegance.” More often than not, he attains it. Railing against big government and the overreach of the executive branch, the author, well known for his old-school, small-L libertarianism and arch mannerisms, often returns to definitive moments in the ongoing story of America, such as the Cold War, the moon landing, and the JFK assassination. Regarding Hastings’ excellent recent book, Vietnam, Will writes, “Vietnam remains an American sorrow of squandered valor….U.S. statesmen and commanders, Hastings writes, lied too much to the nation and the world but most calamitously to themselves.” Some of Will’s irritations include the modern lack of civil discourse; presidential “prolixity” (the former president appears by name sparingly: “this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron”), the “scandal” of mass incarceration and the overcriminalization of American life; and emotional support animals in airplanes. A deeply erudite, always opinionated commentator, Will laments the erosion of literacy and advocates for binge-reading rather than binge-watching, and he parses the intricacies of recent Supreme Court cases with authority. The author concludes this volume with tributes to some of his fallen heroes, such as Margaret Thatcher (“She had the smooth, cold surface of a porcelain figurine, but her decisiveness made her the most formidable woman in twentieth-century politics, and England’s most formidable woman since its greatest sover­eign, Elizabeth I”), Ronald Reagan, and, of course, National Review founder William F. Buckley, “the 20th century’s most consequential journalist.”

A gentleman scholar and scold, Will continues to wield his sharp, discerning prose.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-306-92441-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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