An essential survey of an era for which many readers, considering what has followed, will be nostalgic.

THE FREE WORLD

ART AND THOUGHT IN THE COLD WAR

An overstuffed, brilliantly conceived and executed history of “a time when the United States was actively engaged with the rest of the world.”

New Yorker staff writer and Harvard English professor Menand offers a companion of sorts to his Pulitzer Prize–winning The Metaphysical Club (2001), looking back on the time stretching from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The author examines an age when “people believed in liberty,” informed by thinkers such as Isaiah Berlin and George Orwell and their views of the meaning of liberty in a time of encroaching totalitarianism. Menand’s lengthy narrative is bracketed by an intellectual hero, George Kennan, who studied Russia for decades and had a gimlet-eyed view of the problem that informed the U.S. side of the Cold War: how to contain the postwar ambitions of the Soviet Union. Kennan “thought that subversion and talk of world revolution were things to be taken seriously, but he was not alarmed by them,” and he argued that the Soviet Union was weak, doomed to collapse one day, and unlikely to mount a military campaign against the West. He was right on all counts. Meanwhile, other thinkers weighed in: Koestler, Burnham, MacDonald, Mills, Arendt, and, in Europe, Sartre and Camus. Menand deftly blends social and intellectual history, observing that while words such as teenager and counterculture were current in the 1940s and ’50s, it wasn’t until the late ’50s and early ’60s that the baby boomer generation rose to become a political and especially economic force. (Even so, he points out, “ ‘Young people’ in the 1960s were not that young,” citing as an example Abbie Hoffman, born in 1936.) Whether writing of Woodstock, Frantz Fanon, Andy Warhol, the CIA, Vietnam, or Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Menand is a lucid and engaging interpreter of the times.

An essential survey of an era for which many readers, considering what has followed, will be nostalgic.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-15845-3

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

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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