An unexpectedly entertaining scholarly warning about fascism’s spread through imagery.

IMAGE CONTROL

ART, FASCISM, AND THE RIGHT TO RESIST

A lively investigation of the numerous connections among fascism, imagery, media, and politics.

Books about fascism are rarely unpredictable, and social science nonfiction is rarely a wild thrill ride. But when Nathan applies the style and imagination he demonstrated in his debut novel, Some Hell (2018), that’s what we get. Though the author is upfront about his lack of expertise with the mechanics of fascism and photographs, his originality of thought drives this impressive nonfiction debut. He leans on Susan Sontag and Bertrand Russell to make some points early on, but it’s the way he weaves together the deaths of Matthew Shepard, the Columbine High School massacre, and 9/11 with the rise of Donald Trump and Survivor that makes readers wonder what twist is coming next. “If Marilyn Manson played America’s antichrist, Trump seems to be it—the American monster par excellence,” Nathan writes. Not all his pronouncements hold up intellectually, as he sometimes exaggerates to make a convenient point—e.g., “the American fascist aesthetic is one of noise and merchandise…the aesthetic of resistance is no different—equally noisy and commodified, right down to the T-shirts, the slogans, and stupid tweets.” Nonetheless, readers will be fascinated as the author explains the importance of expressing ourselves visually through the origin of memes, the language of GIFs, and how it all fits together with the work of Homer and the power of representation. Nathan delivers deep thinking and clever turns of phrase in equally abundant amounts, making his history lesson and philosophical discussion a page-turning good time. Of course, the shadow of Trump looms large: “While the most visible aspect of this fascism is, without a doubt, an omnipresent, autocratic bigot whose every photograph and tweet and facial gesture is consumed and interpreted in myriad ways—a kind of image-meth scarcely anyone can stop using—to call Donald Trump this fascism’s alpha and omega is to give him too much credit.”

An unexpectedly entertaining scholarly warning about fascism’s spread through imagery.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-453-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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