A potent indictment that, lest anyone forget, underscores the dangers of Trump and Trumpism.

THE BIG LIE

ELECTION CHAOS, POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM, AND THE STATE OF AMERICAN POLITICS AFTER 2020

A compendium of Donald Trump’s massive campaign of fraud, grift, and democracy-killing mendacity, in and out of office.

It will come as no surprise that Trump built a tottering empire on lies. Though he doesn’t bring much fresh news, Lemire, White House bureau chief at Politico and host at MSNBC, does a useful service by assembling Trump’s fabrications in one place. The biggest of those lies is the constellation of assertions that the 2020 election was rigged and that Trump won. Of course, Trump, “the unlikeliest major party presidential nominee in more than a century,” was saying the same thing in 2016, preparing his base for what seemed the inevitable loss to Hillary Clinton. When he won, rather than admit that he might have been wrong, Trump continued to claim that the election was rigged, with illegal ballots that conspired to deprive him of winning the popular vote as well as the Electoral College. Even co-conspirator fellow grifter Steve Bannon, writes Lemire, commented, “Trump would say anything, he would lie about anything to win that moment, to win whatever exchange he was having at that moment.” As Lemire consistently and depressingly shows throughout his narrative, Trump blustered and lied about everything, and many of them “were just plain hard to categorize, like Trump’s insistence that windmills cause cancer.” The problem was, as Lemire documents, enough people believed his lies—whether the opening-moment-in-office lie that the inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s or the closing one that he had swept the ballot in 2020—that we wound up with Jan. 6. Where fresh news is in short supply, the author’s warnings run long. If anything, the lies will mount, as will the violence, even as a compliant and frightened Republican Party, which had its moment to stand up for democracy on Jan. 7, acquiesces to its lying master.

A potent indictment that, lest anyone forget, underscores the dangers of Trump and Trumpism.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81962-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 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 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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