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RIGGED Robert B.

Reich and
Zephyr Teachout on how the rich win out
OLIVER! A memoir of war and Hollywood
by the director Oliver Stone
FICTION Emma Donoghue’s pandemic,
an audio ‘Sandman,’ beach reads and more
AUGUST 16, 2020

THE AMERICANS
WRITERS WHO SHOW US WHO WE ARE

THE SECOND IN A SERIES

In the United States right now, it can feel as if all our


common experience has been cooked down to a sticky
residue of partisanship. But American literature tells a
different story — or rather, a great many different
stories. To read the work of writers from the near and
distant past, and some who are still active, is not
necessarily to encounter visions of consensus or
progress: Culture wars have always been part of the
culture. Still, the homegrown literary imagination has
shown the ability to flout, to short-circuit and even to
transcend the simplified, sloganized language of
politics, embracing what Henry James called the
“complex fate” of being an American.
These essays on American authors — some well
known, some unjustly forgotten, some perpetually
misunderstood — aim to restore a sense of that com-
plexity. The books under discussion don’t avoid the
perennial hot buttons of race, gender, sex, region and
religion, but they offer perspectives on the question of
American identity that challenge our pieties as well as
our cynicism. Reading them now, again or for the first
time, might represent a modest act of patriotism, a
pledge of allegiance to the republic of American letters.

Edward P. Jones
BY A.O. SCOT T
*8GB1*

IN JUNE, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas made a speech


opposing statehood for the District of Columbia, comparing
its residents unfavorably with the people of Wyoming, who
while fewer in number were in the senator’s view more
deserving of a star on the flag. Wyoming, he said, is a “well-
rounded working-class state,” while Washington is a city full
of “bureaucrats and other white-collar professionals.”
My first thought was that Cotton must not have read the
short stories of Edward P. Jones. There are 28 of them,
evenly divided between “Lost in the City” (1992) and “All
Aunt Hagar’s Children” (2006) and all set mostly within the
boundaries of the nation’s capital. They are populated by
hard-working people, some of them employed by agencies of
the federal government, many more striving to gain a foot-
hold in the middle class while toiling as chauffeurs, shop-
HOLDE SCHNEIDER/VISUM, VIA REDUX CONTINUED ON PAGE 20
Congratulations to
ANN PATCHETT
ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD

Finalist for the “You won’t want


Pulitzer Prize to put down this
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warmhearted book
Instant New York Pulitzer even after you’ve read
Prize
Times Bestseller Finalist
the last page.” —NPR

A Read with Jenna


u t c h “The Dutch House

The D
has the richness,
Today Show allusiveness and
Book Club Pick

Ho u s e
emotional heft of
• the best fiction.”
—Boston Globe
A New York Times A Novel
Book Review

Ann
“Patchett’s storytelling
Notable Book abilities shine in this
gratifying novel.”
t

h e t —Associated Press

Patc
TIME Magazine’s
100 Must-Read “Enchanting.”
Books of 2019 —People, Best Books of Fall 2019
Aus
tin Hargrave

Audiobook performed by Tom Hanks

Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at HC.com

ji-xian-sheng

2 S U N DAY , AU G U ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
Book Review AUGUST 16, 2020 a barnes & noble
monthly pick

“A chilling, brilliant look


at the rise of fascism
in the 1930s that also works
Fiction 13 A FURIOUS SKY as a warning for today…
The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s
Hurricanes Vuillard’s writing is spare, angry and powerful.”
8 THE PULL OF THE STARS
By Emma Donoghue By Eric Jay Dolin —npr, best books of the year
Reviewed by Karen Thompson Walker Reviewed by Elizabeth Kolbert

9 Crime 16 CHASING THE LIGHT


Reviewed by Marilyn Stasio Writing, Directing, and Surviving “Platoon,”
“Midnight Express,” “Scarface,” “Salvador,”
12 THE SANDMAN and the Movie Game
By Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs By Oliver Stone
Read by a full cast Reviewed by Benjamin Svetkey
Reviewed by Maya Phillips
17 THE BOHEMIANS
12 PEW The Lovers Who Led Germany’s Resistance
By Catherine Lacey Against the Nazis
Reviewed by Fiona Maazel By Norman Ohler
Reviewed by Ariana Neumann
14 Beach Reads
Summer Stories 26 The Shortlist
Reviewed by Elisabeth Egan Women in Politics
Reviewed by Christina Cauterucci
18 22 MINUTES OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
By Daphne Merkin
Reviewed by Adrienne Brodeur Children’s Books
18 BONNIE 22 Graphic Novels
By Christina Schwarz Sheela Chari reviews “Shirley & Jamila
Reviewed by Elizabeth Brundage Save Their Summer,” by Gillian Goerz,
“Elvin Link, Please Report to the Principal’s WINNER
19 HIEROGLYPHICS Office,” by Drew Dernavich and “The
By Jill McCorkle
of the
Witch’s Hand,” by Nathan Page and Drew
Reviewed by Sylvia Brownrigg Shannon. PRIX GONCOURT

Nonfiction Features
10 THE SYSTEM 1 The Americans:
Who Rigged It, How We Fix It Writers Who Show Us Who We Are
By Robert B. Reich Edward P. Jones
BREAK ’EM UP By A. O. Scott
Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big
7 By the Book
Tech, and Big Money
By Zephyr Teachout Eugenia Cheng “A powerful argument against
Reviewed by Jeff Madrick
27 Bookshelf Detective the inevitability of history.”
11 THE ROAD FROM RAQQA By Gal Beckerman with Noor Qasim
—the guardian
A Story of Brotherhood, Borders, and
Belonging
By Jordan Ritter Conn Etc. “The Order of the Day scripts the awful behind-
Reviewed by Jessica Goudeau the-scenes march, with all its corporate and
4 New & Noteworthy
11 THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS foreign complicity, from 1933 to Hitler’s rise to
Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami 1980 6 Letters
power in ways so closely observed it feels lived.”
By Nicholas Griffin 23 Best-Seller Lists
Reviewed by Gilbert King —boston globe, best books of the year
23 Editors’ Choice
24 Inside the List
24 Paperback Row
OTHER PRESS OTHERPRESS.COM

TO SUBSCRIBE to the Book Review by mail, visit nytimes.com/getbookreview or call 1-800-631-2580


THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 3
THE NE W DAV E ROBICHE AU X NOV EL New & Noteworthy
F ROM NE W YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AU THOR

VIA NEGATIVA, by Daniel Hornsby. (Knopf,


$23.95.) This promising, energetic debut nov-
el has a plot like the setup to a joke: A priest
who’s losing his religion is on the road with a
pistol, an injured coyote and a letter from an
estranged friend driving him to revenge.

by
ON CORRUPTION IN AMERICA: AND WHAT IS AT STAKE,
Sarah Chayes. (Knopf, $28.95.) A former NPR
reporter who went on to start a nonprofit orga-
nization in Afghanistan looks at the corrosive
effects of corporate and government malfea-
sance, including corruption that is legal or qui-
etly tolerated.

WHAT CAN A BODY DO? HOW WE MEET THE BUILT WORLD,


by Sara Hendren. (Riverhead, $27.) Thirty
years after the passage of the Americans With
Disabilities Act, Hendren shows how engi-
neering, architecture and product design af-
fect our dealings with the world, and asks how
they might better accommodate all users.

ENTITLED: HOW MALE PRIVILEGE HURTS WOMEN, by Kate


Manne. (Crown, $27.) The author, a philoso-
phy professor at Cornell, cogently and effi-
ciently recalls recent, highly publicized inci-
dents of egregious male behavior to argue
that misogyny is endemic and structural.

ANALOGIA: THE EMERGENCE OF TECHNOLOGY BEYOND PRO-


GRAMMABLE CONTROL, by George Dyson. (Farrar,
Straus & Giroux, $28.) Is the future analog or
digital? Dyson, a historian of technology,
ranges far in this surprising discussion.

WHAT W E’RE RE A D IN G
After finding himself caught up in one of Louisiana’s oldest
and bloodiest family rivalries, Detective Dave Robicheaux must I came upon David Bradley’s novel THE
CHANEYSVILLE INCIDENT as a graduate student in
battle the most terrifying adversary he has ever encountered. 1983, and it astounded me — so much so that I
read it twice. I hadn’t thought much about it
since, but digesting Colson Whitehead’s “The
“An imaginative blend of “Burke’s enduring voice “James Lee Burke is
Underground Railroad” last year sent me back.
crime and other genres, does justice to both one of a small handful “Chaneysville” is rich, complex and relentless:
Burke’s existential drama the region’s ancient of elite suspense writers a mystery, a history, a family drama and a meditation on race,
death and time, all wrapped around a cryptic incident in
is both exquisitely executed curses and its whose work transcends
Chaneysville, in western Pennsylvania, once a pathway on the Un-
and profoundly moving.” modern crimes.” the genre, making the leap derground Railroad. The protagonist, John Washington, is a Black
into capital-L Literature.” history professor from Chaneysville who returns to look after the
—P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY —T H E N E W Y O R K T I M E S
man who helped rear him. He leaves behind Judith, the white
(S TA R R E D R E V I E W) BOOK R EV IE W —B O O K PA G E
woman with whom he has a troubled relationship. Washington is a
challenging hero. He’s obsessive and merciless, harsh toward Ju-
dith and his mother. But the story brings a measure of empathy,
reconciliation and hope. The book jolted me in 1983. Nearly 40
years later, it reminded me of the redemptive power of truth.
ji-xian-sheng

—ER I C ASI MO V, WI NE CR I TI C
4 S U N DAY , AU G U ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
Pick up something you can’t put down.

Getting to “Yes”
A Brief Guide for First-Time Readers of Ulysses
Scunner Crabbit

Getting To “Yes” guides you through Ulysses by these numbers:


Four “Active Reading” skills the reader should have for approaching Ulysses.
Six Types of Occurring Instances that Joyce uses and which the reader needs to
be able to identify.
Ten Stylistic Techniques that Joyce uses and which the reader must be able
to recognize.
Twelve questions that readers need to ask themselves before starting to read Ulysses.
Passages from Ulysses’ 18 Episodes serve to illustrate Joyce’s techniques and
guide the reader.

$17.99 paperback
978-1-7960-9102-1
also available in hardcover & ebook
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When You Loving Me Went Wrong FIRST AND FOREMOST


I Had to Make it Right American Unity, The National Purpose and Preamble 2.0
Mamatoone Richard D. Cheshire, Ph.D.
This clever author, will help the readers get through the hurt and Richard D. Cheshire offers a Model of America’s Promise of meta civics
pain of divorce with her 5 stages to healing. from the principles first set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution.
$10.99 paperback $28.99 paperback
978-1-7283-4695-3 978-1-5320-8937-4
also available in ebook also available in ebook
www.authorhouse.com www.iuniverse.com

I’ll Bee There Walking in Love


Short Stories and Personal Essays Why and How?
Diane Gustafson Suzanne Miller
A collection of short stories about life’s challenges faced by men Walking in Love: Why and How? presents and explains a simple
and women of various time periods and locales segues into the process for overcoming human limitations on wisdom and power
author’s personal essays about communicating with the dead. and fulifilling our potential to love.
$13.99 paperback $10.99 paperback
978-1-7283-0496-0 978-1-5320-9464-4
also available in ebook also available in hardcover & ebook
www.authorhouse.com www.iuniverse.com

Oscar, The Obstinate Osprey Healing Process After Divorce


C F Tomalin William K. Bach, Jr., Ph.D
Oscar, the osprey, a very picky eater, learns an important lesson in This book is about healing from the tragic effects of divorce or
this heartwarming, beautifully illustrated tale. This book teaches separation from a loved one, learning to forgive, and rekindling the
children a little lesson about the importance of nutrition. ability to love again.
$15.99 paperback $17.45 paperback
978-1-7960-4471-3 978-1-4208-3090-3
also available in ebook also available in hardcover & ebook
www.xlibris.com www.authorhouse.com

Real Authors, Real Impact Visit us on Facebook & Twitter

3-6-1-6-6-7-5-1-3

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 5


Letters

ager Branch Rickey. The success


of their “great experiment,”
Rickey said, was at risk unless
Robinson testified in Congress
against Robeson. “Mr. Rickey

The events demanded that I go” to Washing-


ton, Robinson wrote. “At that
point in my life, if Mr. Rickey had

shaping the world,


told me to jump off the Brooklyn
Bridge, I would have said, ‘Head
first or feet first?’” Weeks after
his testimony, concertgoers at an
delivered daily. outdoor performance by Robeson
were attacked by a rock-throwing
mob that set a cross on fire.
Try more days of Times delivery. Meacham notes the disappoint-
ment Robinson felt at the end of
Find the delivery choice
A melting iceberg near Greenland in August 2019. his life about America’s failure to
that is right for you at act against racism. But, as “I
nytimes.com/deliveryupgrade Never Had It Made” also shows,
Not Denying the Problem percent of G.D.P. Going net-zero, he reflected on his own actions as
as proposed by the presidential well. “I knew that Robeson was
TO THE EDITOR: candidate Joseph Biden, has been striking out against racial in-
Reviewing my book, “False independently assessed by only equality in the way that seemed
Alarm,” in the Aug. 9 issue, Joseph one nation, New Zealand. It best to him,” Robinson wrote. But
E. Stiglitz misses its main argu- found the cost would be at least “I had much more faith in the
ment: Climate change is a real, 16 percent of G.D.P. ultimate justice of the white man
man-made and substantial prob- The fundamental insight from than I have today.”
lem. For instance, the U.N. Climate climate economics is that we DAVID M. FRIEDMAN
Panel estimates that hurricanes need to endure both the cost of NEW YORK
might become fewer, but fiercer, climate damage and climate
resulting in more damages. policy damage. Cutting too little Fight the People
The total negative climate carbon makes the world endure
impact is estimated by climate higher total costs, but similarly, TO THE EDITOR:
economics, spearheaded by the cutting too much will lead to I’m surprised to see Bill Keller
only climate economist to win a more total suffering. write, in his Aug. 2 review of Anne
Nobel, William Nordhaus from In his rush to rubbish my book, Applebaum’s “Twilight of Democ-
Yale University. Studies show its central point, with which I racy,” that “virulent populist move-
that while the cost of stronger think Stiglitz would agree, gets ments have always existed in
hurricanes will rise, resilience lost: Since many climate policies America, on the right (the Klan,
from richer societies will counter- are inefficient, we should be say) and the left (the Weather
act this effect. By 2100, one careful to tackle climate change Underground, say).” There was
highly quoted Nature article with smart and effective policies nothing populist about the
suggests that fiercer hurricanes like a carbon tax, green innova- Weather Underground. One of
will cost the world 0.02 percent of tion and adaptation. their early slogans, in fact, was:
G.D.P. Similarly, climate will BJORN LOMBORG “Fight the people.” They thought
mostly make agriculture harder, PRAGUE that “bringing the war home” to
although adaptation will mitigate America would help revolutionar-
this impact. The largest empirical Pathbreaker ies in the third world, not Ameri-
study finds the total cost by 2100 cans. Not a very rousing appeal in
at 0.26 percent of G.D.P. Adding TO THE EDITOR: the United States!
up these and many other costs, Jon Meacham’s moving Aug. 2 TODD GITLIN
we can come to a total cost of essay on Jackie Robinson’s auto- HILLSDALE, N.Y.
unmitigated climate change by biography “I Never Had It Made”
The writer is the author of “The
2100 of about 3 percent of G.D.P. overlooked an important moment
Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of
That makes climate change a in Robinson’s history — and
Rage.”
problem, but it seems counter to America’s. It happened on July
much end-of-world media cover- 18, 1949, when the baseball star
age. That is because most climate denounced the singer and civil CORRECTION
stories are told without realistic, rights activist Paul Robeson
moderating effects. The recent before the House Un-American A biographical note with a review
headlines that 187 million people Activities Committee. White on July 26 about Lauren Beukes’s
will be flooded by 2100 assumes America’s Red Scare had tried to novel “Afterland” misstated the
no adaptation. With realistic turn one Black hero against title of the most recent book
adaptation, the actual number is another. written by the reviewer, Stephen
600 times lower. Robinson was midway through King. It is “If It Bleeds,” not “Let
Climate policies are also costly. his finest season when he was It Bleed.”
Cutting 80 percent of the E.U. summoned to the office of the
emissions by 2050 will cost 5 Brooklyn Dodger general man- BOOKS@NYTIMES.COM

6 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 0 2 0 PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES


By the Book

Do you prefer books that reach you emo-


tionally, or intellectually?
Both at the same time. I don’t see these
things as a dichotomy. In fact for me they
are intimately related. Intellectual stimu-
lation is an emotional experience for me,
and something will only be a really
deeply emotionally experience for me if it
engages me intellectually as well.

Which genres do you especially enjoy


reading? And which do you avoid?
Independent publishers and
I love reading novels, which for some authors of not-so-independent
reason seems to surprise people. Howev- means receive special
er, I am getting increasingly picky about discounted advertising rates
the subject matter and types of protago- every Sunday in The New York
nists I want to see in novels, and it’s hard Times Book Review.
to find ones that fit. I like novels that give
me insight into human nature, and that
don’t rest solely on suspense and plot For more information,
constructions, the kind of book I can read please contact Mark Hiler
hundreds of times and still enjoy al- at (212) 556-8452.
though (or indeed because) I already
know what’s going to happen. I have read Reachaninfluentialaudience
“Pride and Prejudice” perhaps twice a forless.
year since I was 11! I love a good murder
mystery, as long as it has those insights
into human nature. I quite often reread N D AY , N O V E M B E R 9 , 2 0 0 8

Agatha Christie. I loved reading her


when I was growing up, and as an adult I
notice a surprising amount of insight into
human nature in them (along with, alas,
some egregiously bigoted and/or imperi-

Eugenia Cheng
alist views that might be considered
typical of her era). She is also surpris-
ingly feminist for the time, with quite a
quantity of strong female characters and
The mathematician, whose new book is ‘X+Y,’ gravitates to reading indeed female mathematicians!
that reaches her mind and heart at once: ‘Intellectual stimulation is an I also look for nonfiction that will ex-
pand my mind about inequality and op-
emotional experience for me.’ pression in the world today.
I have had a lifelong aversion to books
that take place at sea. When I was grow-
Are there any classic novels that you only (when, where, what, how). ing up I often used to get quite immersed
recently read for the first time? My ideal reading experience is epic and in a book and then groan when they went
“Yevgeny Onegin” (in translation). I’ve uninterrupted. I don’t like reading in to sea, because I knew I wouldn’t like it
known and loved the opera since I was a small daily installments; I like reading an any more. The funny thing is I really like
teenager, but the only thing I read was entire book in one sitting. That’s if it’s a being on a boat. Anyway this means that
many articles about the difficulties of novel anyway, and if it’s any good. Deep “Moby-Dick” is definitely not for me.
translating it, and so shied away from nonfiction takes longer to absorb, and
reading it in translation. Finally I decided math books take years. I love the act of What book might people be surprised to
to just read it anyway, and was very glad turning pages when I’m reading a novel; find on your shelves?
I did. There are interesting (to me) dis- when I’m studying a math book I might Aside from being surprised that I read
putes about whether the opera is a trav- need to spend several weeks on one novels, people are often really surprised
esty of the original, but to me that’s not paragraph. that I read self-help. I love self-help books
the point. They’re two very different art Unfortunately this means I’m often because I definitely need help improving
forms and they operate in completely wary of starting a new novel because I myself and think it would be arrogant to
different ways. Opera uses music in the can be fairly sure it will wipe out the rest suggest that I don’t. Yes, some of what’s
role of narrator, and characterizes people of my day (and night). written in self-help is phony and platitudi- Subscribe to the
and places by communicating with us nous, or I’m not really the target audi- New York Times Crossword.
directly and viscerally without words. You’re a concert pianist as well as a ence, but there is plenty in there that has nytimes.com/solvenow
One of my favorite examples of this is mathematician. Who are your favorite profoundly helped me to become a better,
“Billy Budd,” in which Melville spends musician-writers? Your favorite memoir more compassionate, more empathetic,
several pages characterizing Billy and by a musician? less stressed person. The key, I think, is
then Captain Vere, which Benjamin Brit- I don’t read much about music actually; I finding what helps and ignoring what
ten does viscerally in about two meas- prefer just doing it, or learning by obser- doesn’t. 0
ures of music in the opera. vation, that is, going to many many live
performances (in the pre-pandemic An expanded version of this interview is
Describe your ideal reading experience world). available at nytimes.com/books.

ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN TAMAKI THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 7


Sickroom
Emma Donoghue shows how Dubliners struggled during the 1918 flu epidemic.

By KAREN THOMPSON WALKER

IN EMMA DONOGHUE’S ARRESTING new


page-turner of a novel, “The Pull of the
Stars,” an urban hospital is overwhelmed
by victims of a cruel new disease. The
sounds of wracking coughs cut through
the air as medical supplies run short, and
face masks become commonplace in the
streets. Meanwhile, the government touts
false cures and contends that the epidemic
is under control.

THE PULL OF THE STARS


By Emma Donoghue
304 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $28.

The parallels to 2020 are uncanny, but


this is history, not prescience. The year is
1918, and the illness, of course, is influenza.
As Donoghue writes in an author’s note,
“ ‘The Pull of the Stars’ is fiction pinned to-
gether with facts.”
When the novel opens, the pandemic
has left one Dublin hospital with “more
than twice as many patients as usual and a PETRA BÖRNER

quarter the staff.” Julia Power, a 29-year-


old midwife, suddenly finds herself the
bluish discoloration of the skin) in mere she expects her baby to emerge from her
only nurse on duty overnight in the “fever/
hours, and multiple premature labors, an navel.
Historic maternity” ward, the makeshift section of
apparent side effect of the 1918 influenza At one point, Dr. Lynn notes that the
the hospital set aside for influenza pa-
Headlines. tients who also happen to be pregnant.
strain. Their lives are intertwined in the word “influenza” comes from the Italian
Page reprints from constant struggle against the “bone man” phrase “influenza delle stelle,” the influ-
Readers familiar with Donoghue’s mas-
— Julia’s childhood nickname for death. ence of the stars. But this affecting novel
the Store frame the most terly 2010 best seller, “Room,” will recall
The narrow aperture of the maternity suggests that the courses of these wom-
significant news in a the focused intensity she can bring to bear
ward allows Donoghue to focus on one of en’s lives are ruled not so much by the
polished, modern design. on constricted spaces. Like “Room,” “The
the novel’s most compelling preoccupa- heavens but by poverty, misogyny and
Pull of the Stars” takes place almost en-
tions: the lives and bodies of women. abuse — and a culture that forces women
tirely in a single room and unfolds at the
Donoghue goes into great physical detail to bear burdens that should be shared by
pace of a thriller. Over the course of three
as women labor and deliver, as their skin men, with children left to suffer the conse-
harrowing days in this “small square of
tears and bleeds, as they vomit and uri- quences.
the plague-ridden, war-weary world,” Ju-
nate and breast-feed — and, in some cases, Julia describes one of her doomed pa-
lia dashes from patient to patient adminis-
as they die. Even in Julia’s slightly euphe- tients this way: “Mother of five by the age
tering what little treatment there is:
mistic voice, the sheer attention devoted of 24, an underfed daughter of underfed
mostly whiskey and chloroform. A good
to these descriptions functions as a kind of generations, white as paper, red-rimmed
day is one when nobody dies.
unadorned reverence for the work and eyes, flat bosom, fallen arches, twig limbs
So desperate is the hospital for doctors
pain and strength of women — and how with veins that were tangles of blue twine.
that the higher-ups soon call in Dr. Kath-
the paths of their lives are so often defined Eileen Devine had walked along a cliff
leen Lynn, a rare female physician (and
by the workings of their bodies. edge all her grown life, and this flu had
real historical figure) who is considered a
The scenes in the “fever/maternity” only tipped her over.”
wanted criminal by the Dublin police, for
ward are so enthralling that the novel At one point in “The Pull of the Stars,” as
her role in Sinn Fein’s 1916 uprising. Bril-
loses a bit of its fire — and realism — Dr. Lynn criticizes the government for
liant and iconoclastic, Dr. Lynn eventually
whenever it leaves that room, but these Dublin’s high rates of poverty and infant
inspires a kind of political awakening in
departures are thankfully rare. Donoghue mortality, an exhausted Julia insists that
the practically minded Julia.
seems most interested in the dramas of she doesn’t have time for politics. But Dr.
Joining Julia and Dr. Lynn is a young
this one space — with which she manages Lynn shoots back with a sentiment that
volunteer, Bridie Sweeney, the product of
to make clear the broader constrictions seems as relevant to our own time as to
an orphanage so neglectful that she does
and injustices of an entire Irish society. hers: “Oh, but everything’s politics, don’t
not even know her exact age. What Bridie
Among the ward’s patients is an unwed you know?”
lacks in medical experience she makes up
mother from a “mother/baby home,” What she means is what we also know:
for in tenderness and good judgment.
whose baby will be confiscated by Ire- that bad health outcomes are not simply
Together, these capable women leap
land’s system of Catholic orphanages as parceled out by the stars. Instead they fall
from crisis to crisis: life-threatening hem-
soon as he is weaned. Another patient, de- most heavily on the groups that a society
orrhages, skyrocketing fevers that lead to
lirious from fever, is pregnant with her has mistreated and neglected. America’s
convulsions, a horrifyingly rapid case of
12th child, which reminds Julia of an ap- disproportionate rates of death from
influenza that progresses to cyanosis (a
parently common saying: “She doesn’t Covid-19 in the Black and Latinx commu-
love him unless she gives him 12.” The nities come to mind. As we are being re-
KAREN THOMPSON WALKER is the author of two ward’s youngest patient is 17 and lost her minded now, a pandemic can expose the
store.nytimes.com novels, “The Dreamers” and “The Age of own mother in childbirth; this girl arrives political order and the political choices
800.671.4332 Miracles,” and is an assistant professor of eight months pregnant but so uneducated that have marked many of the sick or dy-
creative writing at the University of Oregon. about the female reproductive system that ing long before the disease arrived. 0

8 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 0 2 0 +
CRIME / MARILYN STASIO

Risking Lives and Limbs

Recipes.
PLUCKY HEROINES make me who could resist the sheer audaci-
queasy. (It takes so much energy SO, YOU THINK you know your ty of this plot? Some cuckoo has
to be plucky.) The protagonist of neighbors? You might want to murdered a teenage girl and
Katie Tallo’s first novel, DARK think again after reading Jeff displayed her body in a ritualistic
AUGUST (HarperCollins, tk pp., paper; Abbott’s NEVER ASK ME (Grand pose at the foot of the Albert

Advice.
$16.99), is better than that. Au- Central, 356 pp., $27). Einstein Memorial in Washington.
gusta (Gus) Monet is smart and Lakehaven, a leafy, affluent Special Agent Sayer Altair of the
resourceful, just too stubborn to suburb of Austin, is thrown into a F.B.I., a neuroscientist who stud-
know when to quit. When she panic when Danielle Roberts’s ies the brains of serial killers (but

Inspiration.
returns to her hometown — Elgin, son finds her dead on a park shows her cool by riding a Match-
Ontario, “a town that once was bench. A lawyer who facilitated less Silver Hawk motorcycle),
but is no more” — her instinct is overseas adoptions, including catches the case.
to burn it down. But “greed and some for her neighbors, Danielle The story really takes off when
spite and toxic wastewater” from was currently arranging one from a busload of high school kids is
fracking have taken care of that Russia — if that had anything to hijacked. Although genre writers
already. So her only business here do with her murder. Pertinent or have been known to fret about
is to claim the house (and the old using kids as victims, Cooper has
dog who comes with it) left to her no such reservations and enthusi-
by her great-grandmother. astically displays a mound of
Once Gus is back in Elgin, “she bodies (11 of them children) for
drops into the past,” with all its Sayer to find. But it’s the re-
hurtful memories and unfinished sourceful kids on the bus — who
business. Foremost among these are making their own escape
is a case that bedeviled her plans — who own this story.
mother, a police detective who
died when Gus was 8 years old. A 
convenient stash of cash allows THE CHARACTERS carry the day in
Gus the luxury of losing herself in SOME GO HOME (Norton, 295 pp.,
that case, the murder of Henry $26.95), a polished debut novel by
Neil, whose long-missing body Odie Lindsey. That includes Wal-
just happens to turn up shortly lis House, an antebellum manor
after Gus moves into the ne- that captures the divided identity
glected house. of the New South. Steeped in the
Despite the plot contrivances, history of its gracious setting, but
it’s easy to get caught up in this poised for a controversial renova-
story, especially after Gus finds tion, this living relic has become
her mother’s original notes and something of a battleground for
assembles them into a collage the residents of Pitchlynn, Miss.,

What to cook
PABLO AMARGO
that covers an entire wall — “a “a chatty little place” that doesn’t
timeline of events that took place quite know what to make of itself.
over the span of less than two
years, connected by evidence.”
not, the Russia connection allows
two prospective parents, the
Will Wallis House become frozen
in time as a tourist magnet? Or
for anyone, anytime.
Although she sees this project as likable if high-strung Iris and her will it get that bright coral paint
a kind of homage, an attempt to husband, Kyle, to travel to St. job and declare its independence Discover thousands of expert-tested
finish what her mother started, Petersburg, providing the book from its past?
Gus doesn’t seem to be aware with its most dramatic scenes. One thing is certain: That past recipes, how-to guides for every skill
that, on some deeper level, she’s Abbott writes in an authorita- won’t stay buried until Hare level, plus more.
finally trying to deal with the tive way about the protocols, Hobbs is finally judged for the
emotional baggage of their last many of them maddening, of murder of a Black man he com- nytcooking.com
summer together. adopting a child. He also has a mitted during the civil rights era.
To be sure, there are dedicated real understanding of the emo- Hare’s story unfolds through the
bad guys in the story, and the usual tional roller-coaster couples going lives of other characters, most
dangers to life and limb. But the through the process must endure. memorably his son, Derby, and
subordinate plot is the death of a His layered plot moves along at a his daughter-in-law, Colleen, an
place people call home. In Elgin, nice clip, until he starts piling on Iraq War veteran struggling with
generations of settlers managed to the Russian oligarchs, C.I.A. the shock of leaving the Army.
hold off the threat of unchecked spies, undercover agents and “Coming home to Mississippi,
nature, “until an underground river drug dealers, not to mention the demobbed from active duty, she
of toxins turned golden cornfields kitchen sink. had understood that nothing — no
to black muck and sent a town up family, no church, no job, house or
in a ball of fire.”  health insurance — could protect
DON’T SAY we didn’t warn you you. . . . At the end of the day, the
MARILYN STASIO has covered crime about the clunky writing in Elli- only armor against loss were the
fiction for the Book Review since son Cooper’s CUT TO THE BONE acute reminders of your own
1988. (Minotaur, 323 pp., $27.99) — but fragility.” 0

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 9


The Plutocrats
Examining the impact of economic inequality on American society.

By JEFF MADRICK light in recent years by the computer in recent years. Some balance is
innovative economists required.
ONE OF THE mysteries in politics for dec- Thomas Piketty and Em- Still, they are mostly right. Here is
ades now has been why white working- manuel Saez. The flip side is Teachout’s general recommendation: “In-
class Americans began to vote Republican that wages for the large ma- stead of protesting Pfizer on Tuesday for
in large numbers in the 1960s and 1970s. Af- jority of American work- hiking drug prices, Comcast on Wednesday
ter all, it was Democrats who supported la- ers have stagnated for suppressing union voices and Amazon
bor unions, higher minimum wages, ex- more or less over on Thursday for getting billions in subsi-
panded unemployment insurance, Medi- this same period. dies, we should unite behind a coherent
care and generous Social Security, helping According to agenda, demanding that antitrust authori-
to lift workers into the middle class. Reich, the “anti-es- ties break up Pfizer and Comcast, Amazon
Of course, an alternative economic view, tablishment fury” and Facebook, Monsanto and Tyson.”
led by economists like Milton Friedman, that is the result of Both authors say that Ronald Reagan led
was that this turn toward the Republican such inequity su- the way to the swift undoing of traditional
Party was rational and served workers’ in- persedes racial antitrust regulation in the 1980s. But Reich
terests. He emphasized free markets, en- prejudice as the is almost as harsh on the Clinton and
trepreneurialism and the maximization of cause of Trump’s suc- Obama administrations. Even when the
profit. These, Friedman argued, would cess. In 2001, more Democrats controlled both houses of Con-
raise wages for many and even most Amer- than three out of four gress, he writes, they allowed antitrust en-
icans. workers were satisfied forcement to “ossify,” let companies ham-
that they could get mer away at trade unions and went easy on
THE SYSTEM ahead by working hard. In Wall Street. They were also soft on the is-
Who Rigged It, How We Fix It 2014, only slightly more than one sue of campaign contributions, failing to
By Robert B. Reich out of two thought so. Voters wanted advocate for public financing of elections.
224 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $24. badly to blame it all on the swamp Trump Why? Reich argues that the Democrats
promised to clean up. chose to turn their backs on the working
BREAK ’EM UP For Reich, the big oligarchical compa- class and pursue suburban swing voters.
Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big nies have the lobbying and campaign-fi- He knows, he tells us. He was there. And he
Tech, and Big Money nancing muscle to mold the rules in their reports that the Democrats “drank from
By Zephyr Teachout own favor. They can win enormous tax the same campaign funding trough as the
320 pp. All Points Books. $28.99. cuts, suppress financial and environmen- Republicans — big corporations, Wall
tal regulations, acquire new patents and Street and the very wealthy.”
subsidies, fight for free trade — it is a long Reich makes an example of Jamie Di-
But wages did not rise. And yet many in date for New York State attorney general, list. For years, they successfully battled mon, the chairman of JPMorgan Chase.
the working class kept voting Republican, are among the latest examples of an evolv- against higher minimum wages and labor For Reich, he is representative of the C.E.O.
still seemingly angered by Lyndon John- ing set of explanations that try to make laws that restricted their union-busting ef- class that talks about corporate social re-
son’s Great Society, which was dedicated to sense of the 2016 results. forts. sponsibility but rarely practices it. A life-
helping the poor and assuring equal rights A powerful money-fueled oligarchy has Teachout, a dogged scholar, lays out a time Democrat, Dimon was a major sup-
for people of color. In the 1980s, under Ron- emerged in America that is an enemy of de- comprehensive list of damage done to porter of the Trump tax cut and does not
ald Reagan, income inequality began to mocracy, Reich writes. The self-interested American consumers by monopolized in- support an increase in the minimum wage.
rise sharply; wages for typical Americans power of the nation’s wealthy often goes dustries like Big Pharma, fossil fuels, Sili- Teachout by and large shares Reich’s an-
stagnated and poverty and homelessness unnoticed by voters, and is partly misdi- con Valley, health insurance, banking and ger and may even exceed it. Yet both find
increased. Capital investment remained rected by right-wing rhetoric about issues communications giants from Verizon to reasons for optimism in new laws and
relatively weak despite deep tax cuts (as it like immigration. But it leads to lower Facebook and Google. She provides exam- grass-roots movements. America achieved
does today under Donald Trump). At the wages, less product choice and abusive la- ple after example of how these companies marriage equality for gays and lesbians,
same time, antitrust regulation was se- bor practices. Trump has harnessed the limit consumer choice and suppress regu- elected a Black man president and made
verely wounded, and giant corporations frustration of the working class, Reich lation. Google and Facebook may make ac- the Affordable Care Act law. Reich insists
began to monopolize industry after indus- says, but he was a “smokescreen” for the cess to some news easier, but they also un- democracy will ultimately prevail over oli-
try. oligarchy. Reich has an almost unmatched dermine the profitability of the print news garchy. And Teachout sees America em-
In 2004, Thomas Frank’s book “What’s ability to make insightful observations organizations, putting many of them out of barking on a new antimonopoly moment.
the Matter With Kansas?” tried to explain about the nation’s inequities, and in “The business. Big Pharma is protected from These are valuable books, and the anger
why a once Democratic state had turned System,” he observes that the question is competition by questionable patents and they will generate may prove politically en-
resolutely Republican. His eloquent review no longer Democrat versus Republican or by ever lighter regulations. The nation’s ergizing. But Reich’s claim that democracy
of the rhetoric of the age was instructive. left versus right, but “democracy versus private health care system, dominated by a will somehow prevail underestimates the
But the presidential election of 2016 sent oligarchy.” relative handful of insurance companies, dangers we face. As for Teachout, more
the sharpest message yet. Working-class To Teachout, what’s behind our rigged keeps costs much higher in the United competition may help alleviate some prob-
voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wis- system is the close cousin of oligarchy: cor- States than in the rest of the rich world. For lems, but it is in fact an idealized version of
consin opted for Trump, and apparently porate monopoly. Teachout lists her cul- Teachout, the solution follows as night fol- free market thinking.
against their economic interests. Trump prits, among them familiar names: Ama- lows day. Break up the big companies and Meanwhile, the current president is
had succeeded in appealing to their anger zon, Google, Facebook, Monsanto, AT&T, reintroduce competition. (Surprisingly, moving in exactly the opposite direction.
and the Democrats were caught flat-footed. Verizon, Walmart, Pfizer, Comcast, Apple this is straightforward mainstream eco- He is promising cuts in social policies that
Two new books, “The System,” by the and CVS. These companies “represent a nomic theory.) may well increase middle-income and
former labor secretary Robert B. Reich, new political phenomenon,” she says, “a But both Reich and especially Teachout working-class frustration. He wants to re-
and “Break ’Em Up,” by the lawyer and ac- 21st-century form of centralized, authori- should temper their anticorporate zeal, at write the official definition of poverty to
tivist Zephyr Teachout, a onetime candi- tarian government.” least to a degree. Big companies have often claim that there are fewer poor. He under-
Two dramatic related facts underscore done good while also doing bad. In the mines the rule of law on a regular basis.
JEFF MADRICK, the author, most recently, of the claims of both Reich and Teachout. The 1800s, the A.&P. grocery chain provided a The Supreme Court has been stacked with
“Invisible Americans: The Tragic Cost of much discussed rise of wealth among the wide range of products, though it put count- extreme conservatives. Voter suppression
Child Poverty,” is the director of the Bernard top 0.1 percent, which now has 20 percent of less mom and pop stores out of business. is common.
Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initia- the nation’s wealth compared with only 10 Ford built a cheap functional car in the Is it any wonder that many fear democ-
tive at the Century Foundation. percent 40 years ago, has been brought to 1920s, and Apple an affordable personal racy in America may not prevail? 0

10 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 02 0 ILLUSTRATION BY AARON LOWELL DENTON


Home No More Stranger Than Paradise
The divergent paths of two Syrian brothers separated by war. Before Miami was a leisure capital, it was beset by unrest.

Duffie trial and the incendiary response to


By JESSICA GOUDEAU By GILBERT KING
the verdicts form the backdrop of Griffin’s
“HUMANIZING”— THE WORD often used to IN THE MID-1950S, LeRoy Collins, the gover- deeply researched narrative.
praise immigrant and refugee narratives nor of Florida, looked to the north for in-
— should be unnecessary: The fact that we vestments to bolster the state’s booming THERE IS NEVER a dull moment in “The
are all human should be a baseline as- economy, which, he claimed, rested on the Year of Dangerous Days,” and Griffin
sumption, not an argument or a writerly “three sturdy legs” of tourism, industry adroitly captures the intrigue and deprav-
achievement. Yet it’s never been clearer and agriculture. “All three must grow and ity of South Florida at the time. During a
that the basic humanity of others is some- thrive together,” he said, “or none can sur- period of severe inflation, when major cit-
thing that is now continually in question, vive.” A quarter-century later, the United ies were running deficits, Miami’s unend-
both in the United States and around the States economy was in a deep recession, ing flow of Colombian cocaine, coupled
world. Jordan Ritter Conn’s riveting debut and Miami’s first Latino mayor, Maurice with a plethora of banks that “welcomed
book, “The Road From Raqqa,” is a well- Ferré, was looking not north but to South drug dollars with few questions,” created a
wrought portrait of two brothers, Riyad and Latin America to invigorate his city. To $7 billion cash surplus. “Money doesn’t
and Bashar Alkasem, and their journeys realize his vision, Miami would have to get know that it comes from cocaine,” Mayor
out of Syria: Riyad as a young lawyer who Ferré said. “It’s terrible, it’s illegal and it’s
went to California to learn English in 1990, THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS Miami’s salvation.”
and Bashar, also a lawyer, who fled to Tur- Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami Griffin has no shortage of fascinating
key and then Europe in the midst of the 1980 characters to work with. There are non-
Syrian civil war in 2016. Conn pushes be- By Nicholas Griffin chalant Colombian hit men like Anibal
yond simply humanizing the Alkasems; 318 pp. 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster. $26.99. Jaramillo, who killed in broad daylight and
the book portrays Syria and the United Jordan Ritter Conn believed that he could buy his way out of
States as multifaceted and complex, both legal trouble (“If you had money for a good
through the tumultuous year of 1980, when lawyer, you could effectively evade the
dice when he makes an extended visit. He three unstable legs threatened its exist- law”). And there’s a suave, multimillion-
THE ROAD FROM RAQQA
takes up the legal career Riyad abandoned ence: a flood of cocaine and narco dollars aire money launderer, Isaac Kattan, who
A Story of Brotherhood, Borders, and
and is on the cusp of becoming a judge that sent violent crime skyrocketing, an eventually appears on the radar of Opera-
Belonging
when the revolution ignites in 2011. Bashar unprecedented wave of immigration tion Greenback, a multiagency task force
By Jordan Ritter Conn
cannot fathom life outside the family home courtesy of Fidel Castro, and that included D.E.A., I.R.S., F.B.I.
272 pp. Ballantine Books. $28.
where the Alkasems have resided for gen- deadly rioting and civil unrest and customs agents targeting
erations, even as the war escalates and the ignited by the police killing of drug trafficking.
capable of generosity and oppression, with Islamic State moves in. an unarmed black man. Yet it’s Griffin’s account
histories as interconnected as the broth- Conn builds tension slowly and with Such is the premise of of the 1980 Mariel boatlift,
ers’ own. great sympathy, adding necessary context Nicholas Griffin’s utterly when the Cuban president
As a child, Riyad is steeped in family lore to clarify political nuances. He alludes to absorbing “The Year of Fidel Castro agreed to al-
that traces his ancestry back to the found- the background of Bashar’s wife, Aisha — Dangerous Days: Riots, low more than 125,000 Cu-
ing of Raqqa, on the Euphrates River, also a lawyer — who is more critical of Syr- Refugees, and Cocaine in bans to emigrate to the
through a gracious act of generosity. In ia’s government and eventually persuades Miami 1980.” United States, that is most
government-run summer camps, he falls her husband to leave; Conn describes Ai- Griffin begins his first startling, considering that
in love with a version of Syria that exists sha’s “passion, her will to fight” in contrast chapter in December 1979, the majority of the refugees
only in regime propaganda. Disillusioned to her more cautious husband and I found when Arthur McDuffie, a 33- were absorbed into Miami’s
Nicholas Griffin Cuban community. Castro
after learning of the massacre of members myself wishing her story had been granted year-old insurance salesman
of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama by the more space, especially because she carries and former Marine, was beat- used the opportunity to empty
Syrian Army in the 1980s, he leaves a bur- much of the emotional weight of the book’s en into a coma by white police prisons and mental hospitals,
geoning legal career to chase the ephem- officers. Edna Buchanan, a legendary forcing convicted criminals and trouble-
eral America of inspirational politicians crime reporter at The Miami Herald, be- makers onto small boats bound for Miami.
and tree-lined movie scenes. If Riyad’s tra- Conn’s book is a resplendent came suspicious of police reports stating Radio Havana gloated: “The United States
jectory from dishwasher in Los Angeles to love letter to an obliterated that McDuffie’s injuries were caused by his has always wanted to pick the best brains
restaurateur in suburban Nashville is city. crashing his motorcycle while being pur- of our people — so they can pick up also the
quintessentially American — success sued by the police. Four days later, Mc- bums.”
comes after his restaurant, Café Rakka, is Duffie was taken off life support, and Bu- “If 1980 was a diagnostic test for Amer-
featured on Guy Fieri’s show, “Diners, final scenes. Conn keeps the stakes high chanan’s reporting brought her into the or- ica, Miami was the biopsy,” Griffin writes.
Drive-Ins and Dives” — so too are the in- and the decisions fraught until the very bit of Capt. Marshall Frank, who, as head of Mayor Ferré not only survived the conflu-
dignities and injustices he faces. Espe- end, when Bashar, his wife and their chil- the county homicide bureau, was tasked ence of forces bearing down on his city, he
cially after 9/11, Riyad asks: “Who is a big- dren plunge into a journey that feels like with investigating McDuffie’s death. Dade thrived, serving six terms, from 1973 to
ot? Who is just a jerk? Does the difference both the wrong solution for a family that County’s rising star Janet Reno, Florida’s 1985. On the national front, President
matter?” For Riyad, his new country is a never wanted to leave and the only choice first woman to serve as a state attorney, Jimmy Carter was not so fortunate. In his
mixed place that has “confounded him,” available to them. prosecuted five officers in a trial that was campaign for a second term, he got swept
but also “delivered delirious joys.” As he As complicated and ever-shifting as moved to Tampa. But an all-white, all-male away in a riptide of crises, including those
learns to live with the contradictions, how- their views of Syria and the United States jury acquitted four of the defendants in less that Miami endured in 1980, leading to a
ever, he experiences a growing nostalgia are, the brothers’ affection for Raqqa is un- than three hours (the fifth was acquitted landslide win for his opponent, Ronald
for the Raqqa of his childhood. wavering. Conn translates their memories on a directed verdict before the case went Reagan. It’s impossible to read Griffin’s
Meanwhile, until the civil war, Bashar into a resplendent love letter to an obliter- to the jury), setting off the worst race riots timely and searing account without think-
has preferred his stable, if not always safe, ated city, where Riyad swims as a boy in in Miami’s history. The buildup to the Mc- ing about its implications for our current
life in regime-held Syria (where “the walls the Euphrates and gathers recipes from moment — one of mounting social unrest
have ears”) to his brother’s in America, his relatives, and where Bashar poignantly GILBERT KING received the Pulitzer Prize for over immigration and racism. As Carter’s
where he encounters a minefield of preju- lays out pillows and blankets to look at the general nonfiction for “Devil in the Grove.” domestic adviser would later write, “It is
stars with his daughters in the courtyard of His most recent book is “Beneath a Ruthless difficult to conjure up a more catastrophic
JESSICA GOUDEAUis the author of “After the their family home at night before the Sun,” and he is currently a fellow at the Doro- final year in any American president’s
Last Border: Two Families and the Story of bombs drop. The loss of that Raqqa feels thy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars term of office than 1980, Carter’s last year
Refuge in America.” unbearable. 0 and Writers at the New York Public Library. in the White House.” 0

PHOTOGRAPHS, FROM LEFT: SAMANTHA HEARN; TOMAS GRIFFIN


THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 11
Waking Nightmare Talk of the Town
Neil Gaiman’s classic comic book series, adapted for audio. An unidentifiable stranger plunges a community into crisis.

reminiscent of the work of John Williams, rated by Pew — as if from the vantage of a
By MAYA PHILLIPS By FIONA MAAZEL
full of eerie creeps and triumphant swells. worry stone that is passed from one
THIS IS WHAT dreaming sounds like. And the sound effects — the puttering of a CATHERINE LACEY — the author of the townsperson to the next. Who are these
In the 1980s and ’90s Neil Gaiman first car engine, the shuffling of linen sheets — much heralded “Nobody Is Ever Missing” people? You’ve seen them before, which
showed us what dreaming looks like, with surround the listener as though we are and “The Answers” — returns with her forecloses on opportunities the novel might
his mythical, world-bending comic book present in the scene. Thus are the story’s third novel, “Pew,” a timely entry into the have taken to explore a more nuanced ver-
series “The Sandman.” Now Audible and horrors also viscerally real: the fleshy, wet conversation this country’s been having for sion of, for instance, your standard mission-
DC Comics give voice to Gaiman’s dreams sound of a nurse’s head falling off her neck; years about “otherness.” Look, racism, sex- ary who patronizes the savages in the
— and nightmares. The vibrant audio ad- the gruesome thud of a man hammering a ism, homophobia, xenophobia and a gen- name of saving them. Still, it’s interesting
aptation adds a thrilling new dimension to nail into the back of his hand. The audio eral intolerance for dissent or even sensible to see all this from the “savage’s” point of
the original work; but it also misses out on version of Gaiman’s nightmares is more discourse on any of the above have been view.
some of its fundamental elements. unforgiving than the comic: You may not the portrait of American ruin for some time As each day passes, the townspeople be-
Gaiman’s story follows Morpheus, the actually witness the violence of the ice now. Add to that the coronavirus, and come increasingly intent on labeling Pew,
king of dreams, a.k.a. the Sandman. But far pick, the poker or the pocketknife, but you’ve got a climate in which any book that on naming Pew, by way of giving shape to
from the “candy-colored clown” Roy Orbi- thanks to the voices and effects, you can’t
son sang of, Morpheus is a dark, brooding help hearing them.
PEW
figure with the power to give life to night- Though the adaptation hews closely to
By Catherine Lacey
mares and to consign those who’ve Gaiman’s original writing, it has to fill in
207 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $26.
crossed him to hell. “The Sandman” begins the gaps that arise in translating a visual
with his imprisonment by a magic cult, and medium to an aural one. Whereas the
follows its ripple effects, introducing us to comics’ illustrations provide a language all wants to tackle the problem of community,
Morpheus’ siblings (the so-called Endless) their own, the audio version must fall back bias and discordant experiences of the
along the way: Death, Destiny, Desire, De- wholly on the text, and deliver more. The same event will necessarily feel all the
spair, Delirium and Destruction. task gives Gaiman an opportunity to do more urgent. And so it is with “Pew.”
what he does best: bring images to life. He Beyond the coronavirus’s obvious toll, it
THE SANDMAN describes one demon, for example, as “a has a lot of us grappling with the “uncanny,”
By Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs floating absence, a black amoebic nothing- in the potent, Freudian sense of the word — SALLY DENG
Read by a full cast ness filled with myriad eyes and mouths.” the strange and terrifying revelation of
10 hours, 54 minutes. Audible Originals. But the script cannot always talk itself what we already know. Let’s call it acciden-
out of the pitfalls of adaptation. Gaiman’s tal self-exposure. For instance, some peo- the shapeless. What kind of other is Pew? If
series indulges his love affair with broad ple have no problem calling Covid-19 the the town knew, its residents would know
Audible refuses to call this production an scopes and narrative indirection. He loves “Kung flu” at campaign rallies; other peo- exactly how to discriminate against it,
“audiobook.” Fair enough: The term cer- to approach his plots from the outside in, ple find themselves struggling with such which is critical to the majority’s retaining
tainly feels too narrow for it. It’s not just beginning with ancillary vignettes and thoughts in private with a mix of shame its power. This is how majorities work.
words, it’s theater, with James Hanni- side characters, some of whom re- and sanctimony. Which is all to say: Crises The longer Pew cannot be identified, the
gan’s electric, textured sound- appear and others of whom are tend to expose us to ourselves. more the town begins to come apart. Peo-
scapes and the animated voice gone as quickly as they arrive. Enter into this madness “Pew,” in which ple start talking. Sharing. Disclosing their
acting of a talented cast, di- These shifts are easier to the Christian residents of a small town in secrets to the worry stone, who (which?)
rected by Dirk Maggs. track in the comics, by the the American South find in their church an records it all with the stoicism of an an-
James McAvoy’s Mor- visual cues and reminders. interloper — a person with no readily dis- cient.
pheus is an aural delight: The audio version tries to do cernible gender, ethnicity, name, history or There’s been violence. Lynchings.
moody, subdued, like velvet the same with the repetition interest in talking to almost anyone. The Doubt. And real sadness about being wed
to the ear. Kat Dennings of sound effects and (some- town’s minister, whose daughter once to the community and its judgment. Here is
pitches a plucky, youthful times awkwardly incorporat- named a stray cat after the gutter in which Hilda on the shame of being raised by a
Death, but sometimes reads too ed) exposition, but the world of it was found, dubs the stranger Pew, by the stepmother who is “different — you know,
juvenile. Likewise, Michael “The Sandman” is so large and same reasoning. And so the cuing begins. dark haired, sort of tan”: “We were the only
Sheen’s a charming Lucifer, but Neil Gaiman elaborately knotted that new- Pew is a stray. Pew is rescued from the family like that in town, so we had to work
he occasionally loses his grasp comers may feel a bit lost. church and installed in an attic bedroom by twice as hard to be . . . right. To sit right
on the noble bearing of the leader of Hell. Audible’s “The Sandman” also invites an Hilda and Steven, a local couple who just with the community. It’s all we have here —
Justin Vivian Bond purrs seductively as interesting conversation around the form. want to do right, but who are menacing sitting right with the community. It’s all
the cruel, mischievous Desire, and Riz Ah- This isn’t the first time comics have been from the start. In the grand tradition of anyone wants.”
med provides an effortless magnetism to transformed into an audio format (Maggs “The Stepford Wives” or just the carica- At the end of the week, there is to be a
the dangerous nightmare of the Corin- has also directed Superman and Batman tured hypocrisy of the Christian South, ev- Forgiveness Festival — a bacchanal of self-
thian. adaptations). But the beautiful visuals are eryone in this town protests at length about exfoliation, in which the town’s fraught re-
Leading this parade of vocal talents is so essential to Gaiman’s original text that values and tolerance in the singsong patois lationship with itself spills out into the
Gaiman himself, who intimately knows the the adaptation feels like a separate, lesser of cant. open. The town convenes to discuss
lifts, dips and turns of his own work, and beast. It necessarily neglects the changing Of Pew’s gender, the Reverend says, whether Pew should attend and what to do
how to convey them. Gaiman is a storytell- shapes and angles of the panels, the vari- “You need not be ashamed of looking the about Pew in general: “to decide, as a com-
er not only on the page but also into the mi- able aesthetics of the illustrations, their way you do — as God loves all his children munity, how to proceed with the maximum
crophone, his tone always bearing the myriad allusions to classical mythology exactly the same — but it’s simply not clear amount of people comfortable with what is
slightest hint of impish mystery, as though and even other comic books. to us which one you are and you have to be going on” — which crystallizes just how
he can’t wait to reveal a secret; and yet his For those who’ve already ventured into one or the other, so unless you want us to sinister the residents’ good will really is.
pace is steady and patient, determined not Morpheus’ domain, this production is des- figure it out the hard way, I think you Pew, for whom a Forgiveness Festival is
to lose you along the way. sert, a sweet way to dip back into the should just tell us which one you are.” redundant at best (“I can sometimes see all
Hannigan’s inviting and fanciful score is Dreaming and discover it anew. But for Don’t be ashamed, but. . . . We want to these things in people . . . through those
those more comfortable in the land of the help you, but. . . . masks meant to protect a person’s wants
MAYA PHILLIPS is the arts critic fellow at The waking, who know nothing of the Endless The novel unfolds over the course of one and unmet needs”), assents to it all. And so
Times, and the author of the poetry collection or their rule, it will require more work to week, from Creation to Sabbath, and is nar- we walk with Pew, as Pew bears witness to
“Erou.” Her next book, “Nerd: On Navigating catch hold of the Sandman’s ever-changing an American community unmasking its
Heroes, Magic, and Fandom in the 21st Cen- cloak and follow without falling through FIONA MAAZEL’S most recent novel is “A Little shame, as does the novel that bears Pew’s
tury,” is forthcoming. the clouds. 0 More Human.” name. 0

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROZETTE RAGO FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES


12 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
God of the Storm
A history of hurricanes in America and the devastation they have wrought.

By ELIZABETH KOLBERT ing with their tops pointing northwest, time to prepare. Particularly devastated out the Labor Day Hurricane on Key West,
while near Stockbridge, they faced south- were the islands to the northeast of Savan- visited the vets’ camp, on Lower Mate-
WHEN THE FIRST Europeans arrived in the east. Pondering this strange fact, Redfield nah, off the coast of South Carolina, which cumbe Key, a few days after the disaster.
Americas, they had no word for “hurri- concluded that hurricane winds blow in a were on the “dirty,” or right-hand, side of (He’d been drinking buddies with many of
cane.” In the Atlantic, hurricanes form off great, revolving circle. From this insight the storm. (In the Northern Hemisphere, the men.) The dead, he reported, were “ev-
the coast of Africa and travel west, so was born what became known as the hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise di- erywhere and in the sun all of them were
they’d had no need for one. But the want “American Storm Controversy.” rection; this means that whatever direc- beginning to be too big for their bluejeans
quickly asserted itself. In 1502, a hurricane James P. Espy, a classics scholar from tion the storm is moving, the danger will be and jackets that they could never fill when
off Santo Domingo sank 24 Spanish ships, Philadelphia who also took a keen interest greatest to the right of the eye, because they were on the bum and hungry.”
killing almost everyone on board, including in meteorology, opposed Redfield’s theory. there the speed of the winds is increased by Satellites now allow hurricanes to be
Francisco de Bobadilla, who’d been dis- Espy argued that hurricanes form when the forward velocity of the tempest.) Some monitored from their inception, and com-
patched to replace Christopher Columbus warm, moist air rises from the surface of 2,000 people were killed in the so-called Sea puter models take vast amounts of data
as governor of Hispaniola. It’s believed the ocean, releasing latent heat, and that, Islands Hurricane, most of them African- and spit out predictions. But as Dolin notes,
that “hurricane” is derived forecasting hurricanes re-
from the Arawak word hu- mains a “tricky endeavor.”
rakan, meaning “god of the Hurricanes are susceptible to
storm.” the “butterfly effect” — small
In “A Furious Sky,” his lively changes in the initial condi-
chronicle of five tempestuous tions ramify into very large
centuries, Eric Jay Dolin de- changes later on. Meteorolo-
scribes the 1502 hurakan as “a gists try to deal with this prob-
lem by running their computer
A FURIOUS SKY models many times over, start-
The Five-Hundred-Year History ing with different initial condi-
of America’s Hurricanes tions, but they can never over-
By Eric Jay Dolin
come what’s known as the “lim-
it of predictability.” Thus, hurri-
392 pp. Liveright. $29.95.
cane forecasts will always
come with a range of uncer-
most appropriate prologue to tainty.
European settlement of the At the start of “A Furious
New World.” Hopes of the Sky,” Dolin, who has written
French to colonize what’s now several previous books on
Florida were dashed by a hurri- maritime topics, writes that
cane in 1565. Another hurri- “hurricanes have left an indeli-
cane, in 1609, delayed aid to the ble mark on American history.”
British settlers in Jamestown, He suggests that it’s particu-
who, by that point, had proba- larly important to attend to this
bly resorted to cannibalism, mark now because climate
and a third, in 1635, spared the change is only going to make
life of the Puritan minister storms “more powerful and
Richard Mather, whose son, In- more destructive in the future.”
crease Mather, later wrote of But he never develops a clear
his father’s experience that argument as to what the soci-
“God turned the wind about.” etal impact of hurricanes has
“Hurricane, Bahamas,” an 1898 watercolor and graphite drawing by the American artist Winslow Homer.
The course of the American been (besides a lot of devasta-
Revolution may have been al- tion and death), or what we can
tered by a pair of hurricanes expect it to be going forward
that slammed into the Caribbe- (aside from more of the same).
an in 1780. (According to this theory, the rather than rotating, hurricane winds rush Where “A Furious Sky” is most compel-
storms prompted the French to send ships from the edge of the storm toward the cen- The New York City forecast ling is in its often harrowing details. It’s
they had docked in the Caribbean north, ter. The two men fought for decades, each called for ‘light rain’ on Aug. 23, filled with haunting personal stories. Con-
aiding the Revolutionaries.) refusing to concede anything to the other, sider that of Joseph Matoes Sr., a dairy
Of course, hurricanes didn’t let up once
1893, not a Category 1 storm.
even though, as Dolin points out, both were farmer in coastal Rhode Island. On the af-
the new nation was founded, and Dolin pur- partly correct. ternoon of Sept. 21, 1938, Matoes watched a
sues them as they churn their way through As the century wore on, one scientific American. Relief was slow to reach the is- school bus carrying four of his five children
the first part of the 19th century, wreaking breakthrough followed another. But little lands, in part because of all the damage and head toward a causeway that faced a nor-
havoc from New Orleans to Newport. In progress was made in the science of hurri- in part because South Carolina’s avowedly mally placid cove. The deadliest hurricane
September 1821, a powerful storm tore cane prediction, and even with the advent white supremacist governor delayed call- in modern New England history was bear-
through New England. The following of the telegraph and the creation of the ing for help. ing down on Rhode Island, and the water in
month, a meteorologically inclined mer- United States Weather Bureau, forecasting Four decades later, communications the cove was roiling and crashing over the
chant named William Redfield was trav- remained largely a matter of luck. technologies — radio, telephone — had road. Matoes waved to the bus driver to try
eling by carriage from his home in the town For instance, the Weather Bureau called vastly improved, but, as Dolin recounts, the to get him to stop; instead he accelerated.
of Cromwell, in central Connecticut, to his for “light rain” in the New York area on the bureau’s forecasts had not. In the hours be- Halfway across the causeway, the bus
in-laws, in Stockbridge, Mass. Along the evening of Aug. 23, 1893; instead the city fore the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 made stalled. The driver helped the kids out and
way, he noticed something odd. The was hit by a Category 1 storm. Four days landfall, the bureau missed the fact that the told them all to hold hands. A wave wiped
downed trees in his neighborhood were ly- later, the bureau warned that a hurricane storm had taken a sharp northern turn; the them off their feet. Matoes could only
was about to make landfall near Savannah, result was that hundreds of unemployed watch as his four children drowned. The
ELIZABETH KOLBERT is a staff writer for The but by that point, the Category 3 hurricane World War I veterans who’d been sent to bus driver survived, but told Matoes he
New Yorker and the author of “The Sixth was already bearing down on the city and build a road connecting the Florida Keys wished that he hadn’t.
Extinction.” even those who received the alert had no were killed. Ernest Hemingway, who rode “Everything’s gone,” he said. 0

IMAGE BY WINSLOW HOMER THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 13


Beach Reads / Summer Stories / By Elisabeth Egan
This summer, more than ever, indulge in some page-turning escapism.

fanity. The only sweet thing about “Sad Janet” is its cover,
which might be the most adorable one I’ve seen all year.

IN THE QUEEN OF TUESDAY (Random House, 336 pp., $27), Darin


Strauss places one of his forebears in an interesting hypo-
thetical, imagining that his grandfather had an affair with
Lucille Ball. To read one of Strauss’s novels and then his
memoir, “Half a Life,” is to think you’re in the hands
of two different authors. In fact, you’re
just in the hands of a gifted toggler — a
skill he brings to bear here, combining
both forms.
Even if you didn’t grow up watching Lu-
cille Ball stomping grapes or cramming
her cheeks full of chocolate before “The
Brady Bunch” came on, you will enjoy
Strauss’s fictionalized life of the comedian
who was calling her own shots at a time when
women were expected to fade into the back-
Sxxx,2020-08-16,BR,014,Bs-4C,E1_+_+.pdf

ground. She acted on her own terms, just as


she raised her family and struggled with her
philandering husband.
Ball first crosses paths with the character
based on Strauss’s grandfather at a party
hosted by Donald Trump’s father to mark the de-
molishment of a five-acre steel-and-glass pavil-
ion in Coney Island. (Guests throw bricks to get
the job started, making for rich symbolism.)
Their relationship unspools across decades and between
coasts. Strauss knows his grandfather did in fact attend
Fred Trump’s party, and that Ball was there too. Did they
meet? This book makes you hope they did.
As Strauss writes in his “Instead of an Afterword”
WHAT A STRANGE SUMMER THIS has been. The lead-up So here’s the beach reading vibe I’m prescribing: kin- (which would have made more sense as a foreword): “In
was an excruciating blend of boredom and heartbreak, dred spirits gathering in blue twilight with good books. families, at least in families like mine, a fact is interesting
and the actuality is a series of quandaries that feel like an Crickets providing the soundtrack. A full day behind you, or useful only if it’s been encrusted into myth. Strauss fam-
unwinnable round of Scruples: Is it safe to eat a burger off sound sleep ahead. If you’re near water, mazel tov. If you’re ily memories are dunked in legend; my relatives make fan-
your neighbor’s grill? Do you need to wear a mask while not where you thought you’d be, join the club. Grab one of ciful splashes.” Indeed they do, to the delight of the reader.
biking? Can the virus survive chlorine? these novels, find a little light and plant yourself in its glow.
Then there’s the less fraught but still critical question of OF COURSE THIS WOULDN’T be a legit list of beach reads
when you will have a chance to grab a fat novel and hotfoot IF HAD A CHOCO TACO for every time a friend has asked me without a novel about friends who have traveled through
it down to the water’s edge. We’ve given up so much al- to recommend a book like “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” life together and now find themselves up against a thorny
ready, do we have to add beach reading to the mix? I’m I’d be the Good Humor woman. Happily, Lucie Britsch’s challenge. The winner of this summer’s Mary McCarthy
planting a flag in the sand: The answer to this question is slightly sour, witty debut, SAD JANET (Riverhead, 276 pp., $27), Award (so named for the author of “The Group”) goes to
no. But, just for this year, I’d like to propose a pared-down fits the bill. It’s surprising and irreverent; the main char- Charlotte Wood for THE WEEKEND (Riverhead, 272 pp., $27), in
vision of the traditional approach. It’s inspired by long-ago acter is a cantankerous, Christmas-loathing misanthropic which three women converge on an Australian seaside
family vacations on Bailey Island in Maine, where days goth who works at a run-down dog shelter. (She also hates town to clean out the home of their newly deceased fourth.
were diving into icy waves and doling out Pringles to peo- summer: “People’s brains change in the summer. They go Each arrives with her own baggage: loneliness, health
ple with pruned fingers. Nights were for books. from gray gloop to neon pink, dumb and throbbing like a problems, career disappointment and near-insolvency, not
After kids were tucked between gritty sheets, adults tip- giant penis.”) While Bernadette lost herself in the logisti- to mention all the long-simmering resentments that spice
toed onto the porch with love stories, war sagas and family cal challenges of architecture, Janet’s means for escape is up old friendships.
dramas tucked under sweatshirted arms. The lamp tacked the bone-wearying predictability of caring for canines. As we get to know Jude, Wendy and Adele — and Sylvie,
to the side of our rental cottage was of toaster-oven watt- As much as readers will enjoy snippets of Janet’s work in absentia — we also get to know their younger, more vi-
age, barely bright enough to illuminate a page. The rock- life — how the dogs get named, how shelter workers size brant selves, and we become familiar with the separate
ing chairs were splintery, uncushioned, always missing a up potential adopters, why some pups get a McDonald’s journeys that led them to this cluttered cottage every
slat where one was most needed. Even if you could locate a hamburger as a special treat — the main thrust of Britsch’s Christmas. Wood has several surprises up her sleeve; her
match, the single spluttering citronella couldn’t hold back story is about a new antidepressant that will help Janet characters have loved often, lived large and taken plenty of
the swarms of mosquitoes and gnats. But the reading! In survive the holiday season. Her family wants her to give it risks, which makes for quick, Liane Moriarty-esque read-
that cool, piney air, every book was a page-turner. Every a whirl, but as she puts it: “People are really into this hap- ing. She also has an eye for the little moments that link us,
sentence was memorable and meaningful — quotable, piness thing . . . and I’m really not that fussed. I’ve dabbled sometimes past the point of reason, to people whose histo-
even — and let’s just say Shakespeare did not show his with happiness, I want to tell them, but it never stuck.” ries we share.
spine in our stack of beat-up paperbacks. Eventually Janet swallows her skepticism and takes the For instance, I thought I was OK with the cancellation of
CMYK

drug. Will it unravel her ennui? Will it help her find the my 25th college reunion until I read this: “The two wom-
ELISABETH EGANis an editor at the Book Review and the author companionship she won’t admit she wants? That’s for you en’s faces turned upward, to the sun, to Adele. At the same
of “A Window Opens.” to find out. Be prepared for edginess, dark humor and pro- moment, they each lifted a hand to shade their eyes, in a

14 SUNDAY, AUG UST 16 , 20 20 + PHOTOGRAPHS BY TONY CENICOLA/THE NEW YORK TIMES


motion Adele had seen hundreds, thousands of times granddaughter, Simran. Each woman has a secret, and vice to give.
through all the decades of their friendship. She remem- these secrets drive wedges between them in ways that are How Allie navigates this impossible job, her financial
bered them from long ago, two girls alive with purpose and pleasantly relatable and occasionally semi-obvious. woes and her relationships with her boyfriend and judg-
beauty. Her love for them was inexplicable.” The centerpiece of the book is Simran, who’s in a stag- mental mother could make for a grim read. “Imperson-
nant relationship with Kunal, her boyfriend from high ation” is anything but. Pitlor’s voice is witty and brisk,
THERE IS NOTHING discussion-worthy or thought-provok- school. They might be the world’s first couple to get en- bringing warmth and light to questions of identity, inde-
ing about Kevin Kwan’s fourth novel, SEX AND VANITY (Dou- gaged at their five-year reunion, with a ring stashed in a pendence and, yes, intellectual property. Who owns your
bleday, 315 pp., $26.95). In fact, the only deep thing about it is locker and Usher blaring from the gym. “This is it,” says a stories? How much are they worth? Allie Lang’s answers
the sea off the coast of Capri, where the book begins — voice in Simran’s head. “This is what you’ve always are complicated. Watching her reach them is like sitting
making it the perfect thing to read when you’re not on the dreamed of.” down with a refreshingly honest friend who skips the part
beach but pretending to be. Kwan parachutes readers into Except, it turns out not to be. She meets Neil Desai, a about how great her life is and dives right into the real
the sumptuous wedding of a polo-playing Italian count and (fictional) contributing opinion writer for this newspaper. stuff. We need more friends like this. Authors, too.
an American-raised Taiwanese heiress, whose childhood Their first encounter sets her heart aflutter and the two
friend, Lucie, becomes our tour guide. Lucie’s chaperone is feel an instant connection — but Simran is loath to let her “ELIKEM MARRIED ME in absentia; he did not come to our
Charlotte, a stern older cousin who proves to be a perfect family down; they’re all in on the match with Kunal. wedding.” So begins Peace Adzo Medie’s mesmerizing de-
foil as her ingénue companion falls for a fellow guest with This is not complicated material, and that’s fine. For but novel, HIS ONLY WIFE (Algonquin, 288 pp., $25.95), which
unfortunate taste in swimwear. “What in the world pos- each of her characters, Dave choreographs a dance of ap- lives up to both the power of its first sentence and the
sessed him to wear that ghastly Speedo?” Lucie wonders. proach and retreat, evasion and deception, which is no less promise of its author’s first name. This is not a book to read
This pretty much sums up the tough questions at the entertaining for its predictability. The family dynamics are with one eye on a beach volleyball tournament; it’s a story
heart of “Sex and Vanity,” which is as much about food, familiar in the best way, reminding you that you’re not to soak up in silence, on a long, cloudy afternoon when you
sightseeing and décor as it is about falling in love with the alone with whatever soft-shoe you’re performing beneath have time to think.
right person instead of a bland amalgamation of qualities your own family tree. The bride at the wedding is Afi Tekple, an aspiring seam-
prescribed by high society. Lucie gets engaged to a man stress who is marrying Eli, the son of a wealthy Ghanaian
who fits the second description but later reconnects with LOOKING FOR A BOOK that fires up the synapses? Check family, in a scheme to distract him from a woman his
Speedo-guy in — wait for it — East Hampton. With this out Heidi Pitlor’s IMPERSONATION (Algonquin, 322 pp., $26.95), mother has deemed unsuitable. As her relatives touch up
sparkling confection of a potboiler, Kwan more than deliv- which tells the story of Allie Lang, a struggling single mom her makeup and bustle over pots of soup, Afi sums up the
ers on the promises of his title, and he does so with tongue who is hired to rewrite the memoir of Lana Breban, a pow- dynamic: “Since my mother told me that I would be mar-
planted firmly in cheek, which makes his 1 percenters erhouse New York lawyer who may or may not run for of- rying Eli, I had felt as though I was balancing our two fam-
slightly less vacuous. Watch for the snarky, surprisingly fice. (Her slogan: “Never apologize, never compromise, ilies like a basin of water, which was full to the brim, on my
informative footnotes; you’ll appreciate the genius of your never rationalize.”) The work in question was originally head. It wasn’t easy being the key to other people’s happi-
cruise director. titled “Oh Boy! Adventures in and Lessons From a Femi- ness, their victory and their vindication.”
nist’s Attempt to Raise a Feminist Son,” but the word “fem- Afi finds her way from the crowded courtyard of her un-
NO DOUBT CHARLOTTE would have choice words about inist” was deemed problematic. Allie is tasked with the cle’s house to a luxurious city apartment where she finally
David Nicholls’s new novel, SWEET SORROW (Houghton Mifflin packaging of a subject so elusive, she evades all efforts at meets her husband and tries to make the best of an impos-
Harcourt, 405 pp., paper, $16.99), which tells the tale of star- substantive conversation. To make matters worse, Lana sible situation. You, the reader, are just along for the ride.
crossed teenagers who fall in love during a summer pro- doesn’t seem to know most basic biographical information At a time when adventure is scarce, Medie gives you a lot
duction of “Romeo and Juliet.” She’d find it common; as a about her son, let alone have a shred of child-rearing ad- to look forward to, think about and be grateful for. 0
sucker for warm-weather romance — from “Grease” to
“Goodbye, Columbus” — I found it delectable.
Sixteen-year-old Charlie joins the cast of a theater
troupe with the express purpose of getting to know Fran,
who plays Juliet. Despite having zero stage experience, he
gets cast as Benvolio. Their slow-burn courtship is on the
main stage, but I found the domestic sideshow even more
compelling. Charlie’s family has been torn in half: He’s
stuck at home, worrying over his beloved but directionless
dad after his sister moves out with their mum. (“Sweet
Sorrow” is set in small-town England, with crisp British
humor to match.)
Charlie’s relationship with Fran deepens, and so does
his dad’s depression. As you lose yourself in these yin and
yang narratives, be sure to keep your eye on the clever
scam Charlie has going at the petrol station where he
works. Eventually all three roads converge in an exqui-
sitely painful way. At the end, Nicholls treats you to a satis-
fying glimpse into the future, where characters make a
curtain call as adults. (I did find myself wondering, who
goes to a reunion of their high school theater troupe?)
Bombshells abound.

ANOTHER BEACH BAG MAINSTAY is the mother-daughter


saga, the more generations the better. This summer’s fix
comes from Saumya Dave’s debut novel, WELL-BEHAVED IN-
DIAN WOMEN (Berkley, 385 pp., paper, $16), which welcomes us
into the lives of Mimi Kadakia; her daughter, Nandini; and

+ T H E N E W YO R K T I M E S B O O K R E V I E W 15
The Stone Diaries
A noted director and screenwriter tackles a different sort of history: his own.

By BENJAMIN SVETKEY (or “street Hamlet,” as Stone refers to him) set could fill a book on their own. “Jimmy
betrayed him in the editing room of “Scar- had been yelling so much in front of the
WHENEVER OLIVER STONE makes movies face” by wimping out during a battle over Mexican crew that he was suddenly and of-
about real people, he ends up in hot water. the film’s cut with the director Brian De ficially warned by the Mexican govern-
Whether the subject is Richard Nixon or Palma. How he originally considered ment that his behavior ‘as a guest in our
Alexander the Great, there’s always some Keanu Reeves for Charlie Sheen’s part in country’ was ‘unacceptable,’ and that if it
critic nit-picking about factual inaccura- “Platoon” (until the future “Matrix” star continued, he’d be asked to leave Mexico,”
cies or perceived political agendas. Not turned it down because “he hated the vio- Stone writes of the actor who ended up
this time. With “Chasing the Light,” the 73- lence in the script”) and later courted Tom landing an Oscar nomination for his part in
year-old Oscar-winning director and Cruise to star in “Wall Street” (as well as the movie.
screenwriter has finally found a historical Michael J. Fox and Matthew Broderick be- Stone’s own bad behavior has raised
figure he can portray with all the bias he fore finally settling again on Sheen). And eyebrows over the years. Seemingly ev-
desires: himself. then there’s Stone’s portrait of Woods, erybody in Hollywood has some sort of Oli-
And yet, Stone’s 330-page memoir, cov- whose diva shenanigans on the “Salvador” ver Stone story. Although he doesn’t delve
ering his life and career up to his first mile- too deeply into his drug use or sexual ad-
stone achievement — winning an Oscar for ventures (he writes about his ex-wives
his 1986 Vietnam drama, “Platoon” — with warmth and respect), he doesn’t
turns out to be a surprisingly sober and whitewash his excesses either. “Yes — and
cleareyed portrait of a rabble-rouser as a I’d also gotten intoxicated in Hollywood
young man. It’s sure to tick off some peo- and drugged in public, with stupid, imma-
ture behavior,” is how he cops to his trans-
CHASING THE LIGHT gressions. “I’d flirted with and teased
Writing, Directing, and Surviving “Pla- pretty women, sometimes in front of jeal-
toon,” “Midnight Express,” “Scarface,” ous men. I was at times rude, arrogant —
“Salvador,” and the Movie Game yet I’d say colorful too, the kind of guy who
By Oliver Stone you don’t know what he’ll do next.” In one
330 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $28. startling passage, he even confesses to
voting for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
His decision to end the memoir on Oscar
ple, like the actor James Woods, who likely night 1987 does feel a bit abrupt — there’s
won’t be thrilled with the bit about his con- just so much more one wants to read about,
stant whining on the set of “Salvador.” But from how Stone dealt with the backlash
for the most part the Oliver Stone depicted over his 1991 film “JFK,” to the controversy
in these pages — vulnerable, introspective, he stirred up with 1994’s “Natural Born
stubbornly tenacious and frequently Killers,” not to mention an explanation for
heartbroken — may just be the most sym- that fawning 2017 Showtime interview se-
pathetic character he’s ever written. ries he did with Vladimir Putin (you know,
As one might suppose, some of the most the Russian strongman who’d just finished
riveting parts are set in Vietnam, where, in meddling in the U.S. presidential election).
1967, after dropping out of Yale, 21-year-old But, as the old showbiz saying goes, al-
Stone volunteered for service in the war ways leave them wanting more. And this
that would shape so much of his worldview book — “a story about cutting corners, im-
(and provide the inspiration for “Pla- provising, hustling . . . about lying outra-
toon”). geously, gritting it out with sweat and tears
For a screenwriter, Stone has a notably . . . about growing up,” as he describes it in
languid and elegant prose style — at times his introduction — neatly sets the stage for
downright novelistic — even if some pas- Clockwise from top left: Oliver Stone in 1986; John Hurt in “Midnight Express” (1978); James the possibility of that rarest of Stone pro-
sages can be rough to read. “Full daylight Woods and Jim Belushi in “Salvador” (1986); Al Pacino in “Scarface” (1983). ductions: a sequel. 0
revealed charred bodies, dusty napalm
and gray trees,” he writes about the after-
math of a battle near the Cambodian bor- long way in explaining his penchant for
der. “Men who died grimacing, in frozen conspiracy theories later in life. “If my par-
positions, some of them still standing or ents had truly known each other before
kneeling in rigor mortis, white chemical they were married, they would never have
death on their faces.” united, and I would never have existed,” he
What’s more unexpected, though, is how writes. “Children like me are born out of
engaging a tale he spins out of his early that original lie, and living a false front, we
family life in Connecticut and New York, suffer for it when we feel that nothing and
particularly his odd-couple parents — dad nobody can ever be trusted again. Adults
a Republican stockbroker, mom a free- become dangerous. Reality becomes lone-
spirited French glamour puss, both liness. Love either does not exist or cannot
cheated on each other — and how their di- survive.”
vorce shattered his childhood. Even more But, of course, the real payoff here, par-
than Vietnam, this war at home seems to ticularly for movie buffs, is Stone’s account
have molded Stone’s psyche, scarring him of his early struggles as a filmmaker. How,
with a suspicious nature that could go a within the course of a few years, he went
from being a 30-year-old cabdriver to one
BENJAMIN SVETKEYis a former editor at The of the top screenwriters in Hollywood, then
Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment clawed his way to the director’s chair with
Weekly and the author of the novel “Leading mostly forgotten horror flicks like
Man.” “Seizure” and “The Hand.” How Al Pacino Tom Berenger, left, and Willem Dafoe in the 1986 film ”Platoon.”

16 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 02 0 PHOTOGRAPHS IN CENTER, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ORION PICTURES, VIA PHOTOFEST; SILVER SCREEN COLLECTION; METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS; UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. ABOVE: PHOTOGRAPH FROM EVERETT COLLECTION.
Brave Hearts
The young lovers who helped lead the anti-Nazi resistance.

By ARIANA NEUMANN The German writer Norman Ohler begins where the truth has been distorted many emies of the Reich, support Jews, produce
“The Bohemians: The Lovers Who Led Ger- times,” he writes, “not to add another leg- pamphlets and establish links with Soviet
VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG is an many’s Resistance Against the Nazis” with a end but to report as accurately as possible, intelligence. At a time when, as Ohler puts
amalgamation of the German words Ver- powerful scene from his own life that per- combining my skills as a storyteller with it, “propaganda and suppression increas-
gangenheit, “the past,” and Bewältigung, fectly encapsulates the guilt, grief, anger the responsibility of the historian.” ingly dominate daily life,” they cut remark-
“coping with,” and is often used to describe and remorse that have haunted so many of The story he reconstructs is that of Harro able figures.
the effort to grapple with the repercus- us. As a 12-year-old, Ohler asks his beloved and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, drawing on For decades, Ohler writes, historians
sions of World War II. grandfather, his “Pa,” about his role in the letters, articles, diaries and interviews to ac- were reluctant to carry out a “genuine in-
war. Then an engineer, now a frail old man, quaint us with the couple in all their com- vestigation” of the couple’s anti-Nazi cir-
THE BOHEMIANS he describes seeing SS guards, a freight plexity — engaging, bold, flawed. Harro, a cle. It was widely believed that German re-
The Lovers Who Led Germany’s Resistance train and then a child’s hand through a crack student activist, underground writer and sistance spread little beyond the White
Against the Nazis in the train car’s boards. But the grandfather eventually an employee of the German Air Rose and the Stauffenberg plot. For politi-
By Norman Ohler does nothing. “I was scared of the SS,” he Ministry, is the pair’s intellectual driving cal reasons, both East and West Germany
Translated by Tim Mohr and Marshall Yarbrough helplessly explains. Young Ohler is stunned, force. He is ambitious and stoic, an idealist. sought to erase from history details of the
Illustrated. 293 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. and in that moment of “stillness you could Libertas is more whimsical, and also initially brave work of Libertas and Harro and their
$28. hear,” he cannot contain his hatred for his Pa. a Nazi Party member. She dreams of being a group. Family and friends were silenced,
Best known in Germany as a novelist, poet and is working for Metro-Goldwyn- and in both East and West Libertas and
Ohler is also the author of “Blitzed,” a con- Mayer when she meets Harro. Her decision Harro were posthumously lionized as Sovi-
Children of Holocaust survivors grow up troversial 2017 best seller about rampant to resist seems based more on circumstance et spies. The reality was more subtle and
in the war’s shadow. Unwittingly, we remain drug use in the Third Reich. With the open- than principle, but she is deeply resourceful fraught. Theirs is a tragic tale of defiance,
shackled to an inheritance that reverberates ing scene of “The Bohemians,” another and loyal. We feel the couple’s triumphs inti- espionage, love and betrayal.
through generations. Yet the trauma is not work of nonfiction, he masterfully estab- mately and, as the net tightens around them, Ohler employs the present tense
limited to those close to victims. The families lishes his trustworthiness as a narrator, their sorrows. throughout, imbuing his account with ur-
of the perpetrators, of those who resisted which is crucial as we travel with him back Young, passionate and liberal, they defy gency and reminding us that the past in
and of those who failed to act must all cope to the 1930s and then on through the war. the regime with their unconventional life- many ways remains our present. His only
with the past. He weaves a detailed and meticulously re- style — including an open marriage and deviation into the past tense is in the fore-
searched tale about a pair of young Ger- love of wild gatherings bringing together word, where he discloses his grandfather’s
ARIANA NEUMANN is the author of “When Time man resisters that reads like a thriller but people of diverse backgrounds and politi- agonized recollection — a failure to act for
Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and is supported by 20 pages of footnotes. “I cal leanings. More dangerously, they pass which the resistance narrative of “The Bo-
What Remains.” find it particularly important in this case, on information about Nazi atrocities to en- hemians” serves as a kind of atonement. 0

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THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 17


Under the Influence
A novel about sexual obsession and storytelling.

By ADRIENNE BRODEUR literary critic and novelist known for her If you’re like me, you might not be a fan
revealing personal essays, which have of metafiction. I follow Hansel and Gretel
“A BOOK IS a heart that only beats in the chronicled her sexual fixation on spanking into the woods because I’m curious about
chest of another,” Rebecca Solnit writes of as well as her struggles with depression. their fate, not to know why the Brothers
the symbiotic relationship between writers But, dear reader, how do you feel about Grimm chose gingerbread as construction
and readers. How, exactly, this transplant interruptions? Would it bother you if in the material. Simply put, I read for the trans-
works is as mysterious as love itself. But thick of this steamy story of sexual obses- portive magic, not the trick. But here’s the
not when the book is Daphne Merkin’s new sion, the narrator butts in to solicit your shocker: Thanks to Merkin’s literary le-
novel, whose narrator invites us into the opinion, discuss a plot decision or opine on gerdemain and stylish prose, her rumi-
operating room to observe the procedure: some bit of literary trivia? If so, consider native digressions — about memory, sub-
yourself forewarned. There are five chap- jectivity and the interplay between reality
22 MINUTES OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ters, each titled “Digression” and num- and fiction — contribute as much to the
By Daphne Merkin bered one through five, devoted to doing book’s artistic, emotional and intellectual
244 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $26. just this, which may challenge your staying payoff as her story does. There is delight in
MELANIE LAMBRICK
power. each intrusion, of the sort that I experience
“Peekaboo, I see you, out there in the on a leisurely Sunday morning when I’m
“So come with me and watch Judith Stone family. Instead, she chances upon Howard world holding this book,” the narrator calls able to wake up only to fall back to sleep
collide with her destiny in the shape of a Rose, a charismatic and moody lawyer 13 out cheekily, addressing us for the first again, taking pleasure in crossing the
man named Howard Rose.” years her senior, who becomes the object of time. She drops clues to her identity: “You boundary of consciousness.
“22 Minutes of Unconditional Love” her desire. Needless to say, Howard is not don’t really believe, do you, that I’m any- “22 Minutes of Unconditional Love” is an
tracks an unusual episode in the otherwise husband material. If anything, he’s a ro- one but a writer pretending to invent a arresting novel that explores the alchemy
unremarkable life of Judith Stone, a smart mantic antihero, skilled in the giving and character,” adding elsewhere that she of contradictions that exist in all great
and anxiety-prone young editor in Manhat- withholding of sexual pleasure, and able to “might very well be you.” Seductive one works of literature. Observant and witty,
tan. Inexperienced in affairs of the heart, “turn his interest on and off like a light moment (“I stand here . . . offering you my- Merkin makes each sentence pack a pro-
Judith longs to find a good man and start a switch.” Despite initial reluctance, Judith self in all my guises”) and dismissive the vocative wallop. So, come for the promise
quickly succumbs to Howard’s emotional next (“Perhaps you are not the reader I of a compulsively readable novel — “Ob-
ADRIENNE BRODEUR is the author of “Wild and sexual manipulations; the details of want after all”), our narrator is as skillful session makes for good copy,” the narrator
Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me,” her erotic compliance are breathtaking. an orchestrator of emotion as Howard him- tells us — and stay for a fascinating lesson
which is now out in paperback. This is not unusual territory for Merkin, a self. on the making of art. 0

Poet With a Pistol


Christina Schwarz’s fifth novel shows the softer side of an outlaw.

By ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE children back to her parents’ home in Ce- getting by on Clyde’s robberies of grocery
ment City — the arid industrial town out- stores and, less frequently, of banks. With
THE OUTLAW ARCHETYPE has long been a side Dallas where the air has a “sharp, un- Clyde’s brother, Buck, and a young accom-
staple of American storytelling, champion- pleasant tang,” and where Emma stitches plice named W.D., they form the Barrow
ing unlikely heroes who, driven by an elu- overalls for the factory men. As the middle Gang, all crammed together in a stolen car
sive notion of freedom, embrace lawless- child, Bonnie is plucky, mischievous and along with Buck’s wife, Blanche, whose pa-
ness in pursuit of a higher justice. Bonnie bright enough to be restless. Early on, she’s rochial sniveling grates on Bonnie’s
and Clyde are no exception, and their tragic singled out for her writing talents and wins nerves. Unlike Blanche, Bonnie relishes
romance has been recycled countless a literary contest, securing her private con- her status as a partner who gets her fair
times, most memorably in Arthur Penn’s viction that she’s destined for better things, share. Schwarz abandons the mythical ex-
visionary film of 1967, starring Faye Dun- but in high school, an English teacher sti- citement of the open road for its punishing
fles her enthusiasm. “Womanhood, like a realities: the gut-wrenching pressure of es- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the 1967
BONNIE colt, apparently required breaking,” Bon- cape and the injuries that result, bullet-rid- film “Bonnie and Clyde.”
By Christina Schwarz nie surmises; in retaliation, she marries dled cars, little food and rare sleep, and the
337 pp. Atria Books. $27. her high school sweetheart and drops out of dead they leave in their wake. Unwittingly, the author is blocking a scene rather than
school. The marriage doesn’t last, and Bon- Bonnie achieves the fame she’s always pursuing the complex emotions that drive
nie moves home and starts waitressing as dreamed of when the papers publish her it — and, like so many heroines before her,
away and Warren Beatty. In her absorbing the Depression looms. In Clyde Barrow, poetry and a picture, taken on a whim, de- Bonnie accepts Clyde’s physical mistreat-
fifth novel, Christina Schwarz trains her whom she meets through a friend, she sees picting her as a hardened moll, brandishing ment as a preamble to “tenderness,” mis-
lens on Bonnie Parker, investigating how a a man who’s going places and admires “his a pistol and cigar. When she is nearly crip- construing her bruises as proof of his love.
girl from the humdrum plains of West desire to be special, because it matched her pled in an automobile accident, her poign- Ultimately, it is never fully established
Texas became one of the most notorious own.” When Clyde is arrested, he per- ant, often heartbreaking downfall begins in what motivates Bonnie, deep in her bones,
criminals of the 20th century. suades her to bring him a gun so he can earnest, with pills and booze her only re- to live such a reckless, unfulfilled life.
The novel begins when Bonnie’s newly bust out of jail, but his freedom is short- course. As Bonnie discovers, she and Clyde As Bonnie perceives it: “Their existence
widowed mother, Emma, moves with her lived and he’s soon recaptured. He serves were “doomed to circle the edges of civiliza- might be chaotic and dirty and sickeningly
two more years in a harsher prison before tion and snap up scraps, like feral dogs.” violent, but if they lived and died for that
ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE is the author, most re- he chops off two toes with an ax to get re- Schwarz is a vivid storyteller, but keeps a existence together it seemed, if not virtu-
cently, of “All Things Cease to Appear.” Her leased. polite distance from the darker impulses ous, at least significant and exceptional.
new novel, “The Vanishing Point,” will be Reunited at last, the young lovers set out that shaped Parker’s life. The couple’s sup- She could still tell herself it was a love
published in May 2021. across the drought-weary plains of Texas, posed sexual bond lacks nuance, as though story.” 0

PHOTOGRAPH FROM WARNER BROTHERS


18 S U N DAY , AU G U ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
Left Behind
Examining the end of life through the stories of an aging couple and a murder trial. The Book
Review
Podcast
By SYLVIA BROWNRIGG

A GOOD NOVEL can perform the same per-


ception-bending trick as a lockdown: slow-
ing time, throwing light on shadowed cor-
We speak
ners, reminding us of the interdependen- to the books
cies among us that we once took for
granted. that speak
In her vibrant, engaging fiction, Jill Mc-
Corkle has given voice to characters on to you.
both sides of the divide between profes-
sionals and the essential workers who sus-
tain them — her sixth and most recent nov-
el, “Life After Life,” was set in a retirement
home in North Carolina. McCorkle’s art lies

HIEROGLYPHICS
By Jill McCorkle
312 pp. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. $26.95.

in chronicling the many minor episodes


that build one person’s unique life. In her
new novel, “Hieroglyphics,” 85-year-old Lil
Wishart and her husband, Frank, have re-
cently moved from Massachusetts to North
Carolina to be closer to their adult daugh-
ter. There Lil is assembling selections from
her years of journal entries: memories of
kids’ arguments, affectionate stories and
painful ones about Frank. In a letter to their YIFAN WU

children, Becca and Jeff, Lil describes this


anthology as “my contribution to evolu- Hosted by Pamela Paul.
tion, the unearthing and dusting of the when not noticed . . . no one wants what the
prints and markers that led me here.” average or below-average person has, and McCorkle knows that facing “The Book Review”
If McCorkle’s imagined group home, so they leave you alone, and sometimes be- death allows us, as this terrible podcast leads the
Pine Haven, connected the large cast of ing left alone seems the best choice.” conversation on
“Life After Life,” a single house links the The novel is full of ghosts and hauntings,
pandemic has, to focus on what
is essential. noteworthy books
two families of “Hieroglyphics”: Shelley, a tombs and cemeteries. Harvey’s anxious
diligent court recorder, lives with her two imagination dwells on murder stories his and the authors who
sons in the house (now somewhat run- older brother told him, of Lizzie Borden, the write them.
down) where Frank grew up. Since return- Menendez brothers and local horrors. and more interior than that of McCorkle’s
The praise, the
ing to North Carolina, Frank is eager to vis- Frank, a retired academic, used to study previous novel. Alternating sections center
it his old home, where he and his mother burial rituals, “the myths of death and all on Frank and Lil, Shelley and Harvey — disagreements, the
lived after the tragedy that marred his the ancient beliefs of the afterlife,” so he but mostly when they are alone, reflecting protests, the prizes.
childhood. Shelley warily waves Frank knows well the importance of relics and the on their past or present. Frank walks the Join us for the latest
away with a line about her soon-to-return magical thinking of trying to keep the dead tracks where his father died, still imagining in criticism and
husband, though in fact she is raising her alive. Lil’s earlier years volunteering in the accident, while Lil stays home tethered
discussion, featuring
sweet 6-year-old, Harvey, alone — her old- hospice care helped her sort through her to her oxygen tank, worrying that Frank
er son, by a different absent father, has re- own grief over the early loss of her mother, might take things in hand to forestall a bad Times editors and the
cently started college. Shelley’s long days in a devastating accident that created the ending. McCorkle explores the poignant biggest authors in the
are spent logging the proceedings of a grim coincidence that first drew Frank and Lil territory of an aging couple discussing how literary world today.
murder trial, her mind filled with its dis- together. to die, as Lil writes to Jeff and Becca, “Your
tressing details and worries over Harvey. Lil’s mother died in the terrible (real-life) father has lately pitched death like one of
The murder victim worked as an aesthe- Cocoanut Grove fire that killed almost 500 his adventurous trips or a romantic ren-
tician in a retirement home, her death people in Boston in 1942, and Frank’s father dezvous.”
staged to look like a suicide by the married died in a December 1943 train accident The novel builds slowly toward both the
doctor with whom she was having an affair. (also real) outside of Fayetteville, N.C. His end of the murder trial as well as a resolution
These circumstances form a closing mother, returning to Massachusetts with for Frank and Lil. McCorkle, a generous, hu-
episode in “Life After Life,” and though her husband, only survived the wreck be- mane writer, knows that facing death allows
“Hieroglyphics” is self-contained, it will be cause she was using the train’s bathroom us, as this terrible pandemic has, to focus on
a richer story for readers already familiar when the crash occurred; badly injured, what is essential: how to take care of our vul-
with some of these characters. Shelley is she stayed in North Carolina to convalesce, nerable, and to appreciate the connections
haunted by the young woman’s fatal mis- and eventually brought young Frank down that sustain us. The maternal hearts of Lil
take, feels pity for the young son she left be- to join her. The shock of these losses has re- and Shelley are the central force of “Hiero-
hind and silent rage at the entitled doctor. verberated throughout Frank’s and Lil’s glyphics.” If Lil is making sense of her own
Having come from an abusive family, Shel- lives, giving them both a stark sense of the life for her children, it is partly so that down
ley “learned early that she was treated best before and after of tragedy, and driving Lil the line, they can do the same for theirs. “My Download now at:
to be for her own children the focused wish is that you both are in lives that provide nytimes.com/TBRpodcast
SYLVIA BROWNRIGG is the author, most recently, mother she herself lacked. loving and trustworthy souls who can hear
of the novel “Pages for Her.” The tone of “Hieroglyphics” is dreamier your story.” 0

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 19


The Americans: Edward P. Jones
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 the decade before the Civil War, for hu-
man beings. Jones also offers receipts in
keepers, retail workers and bus drivers. a more recent, metaphorical sense — as
A few are doctors, lawyers and soldiers. evidence of something that somebody
There are some criminals and layabouts might have reason to doubt, as proof
in the mix too, but even Wyoming has its against equivocation, indifference and
share of those. A population granted such outright denial.
exquisitely detailed literary representa- What risks being denied is what has
tion might also deserve the political kind. historically, in America, been dismissed
This may be the place to note that nearly and devalued: the matter — the material,
all of Jones’s Washingtonians, like human actuality — of Black lives. Jones
roughly half of their real-life counter- isn’t an overtly political writer. Historical
parts, are Black. currents like the civil rights movement
I know that it’s silly to imagine that a and abolitionism flow past and over his
hard ideological position could be dis- characters, but don’t tend to sweep them
solved by fiction, and I should point out up. Apart from an occasional reminder
that statehood doesn’t figure explicitly that the president also lives in Washing-
among the concerns voiced by Jones’s ton, the drama of American politics takes
characters, who are of course entirely place far from the parts of Northeast,
imaginary. Although nobody who has Northwest and Anacostia where Jones’s
read these books will quite believe that people work, love and dream. This is
they aren’t real. partly an effect of segregation, which,
The city they live in very much is. “All depending on the decade, is either a
the places that I write about are real,” matter of overt policy or of longstanding
Jones said in an interview with Hilton Als practice. Jones’s depiction of the pleas-
in 2013. Every story abounds in specific, ures of life in Washington’s Black neigh-
knowable locations — blocks, intersec- borhoods might seem nostalgic if some
tions, street addresses, all encrypted in fundamental change had taken place to
the abstract alphabetical-mathematical- sweep away a social environment defined
geographical code of Washington’s neigh- by racism, but that isn’t the kind of re-
borhoods: the barbershop “on the corner assurance he is inclined to provide.
of 3rd and L Streets, Northwest”; “Geor- As for the gospel singers, doctors,
gia had always considered the corners of nurses and clerks — which is also to say
5th and M as her lucky corners”; “Miss the grandparents, husbands, ex-lovers,
Jenny had come out of Hahn’s shoe store, orphans and spinsters — who populate
crossed New York Avenue and was going these places, they hardly need to spell
up 7th Street”; the building at 1708 10th out the facts of American life to them-
Street, “around the corner from the fire selves or one another. Toni Morrison
station on R Street.” often said that her goal as a writer was
That last address, the home of a do- never to solicit or pander to “the white
mestic worker named Roxanne Stapleton gaze,” in other words to cast off the bur-
who is suddenly and mysteriously struck Jones’s prose is always exacting in its observation and meticulous in its accounting. den assumed by many earlier Black
blind, was one of Jones’s childhood writers of explaining and instructing
homes. “I never knew anybody that white readers in matters of race. Jones,
happened to,” Jones told Als. “But I had ences a series of “miracles” — an unset- scrupulously documented, carefully quanti- like many African-American writers who
to put her someplace to live, so I might as tling euphemism for horrifying mishaps fied world. The attentive reader will notice arrived in Morrison’s wake, renders his
well put her in our 10th Street apartment, in which she is the only survivor. Super- the profusion of numbers: ages calculated world with a similar kind of confidence.
in a building that I knew.” stition and formal religion shape the to the month, times something has hap- This isn’t a matter of exclusion or sepa-
The cumulative effect of this kind of thinking of many characters, especially pened noted as if in a ledger, significant ratism — a book can be opened by any-
knowledge, this abundance of verifiable those old enough to remember the South- events measured mathematically. In the body, and open any mind — but of fidelity
local information, is to endow the stories ern places where they lived before the second paragraph of “Old Boys, Old Girls,” to the truth of experience.
with a distinctive credibility. If Jones tells capital summoned them. we learn that “seven months after he So it might go without saying — though
you someone found a parking space “on S But “magical realism,” a worn-out phrase stabbed the second man — a 22-year-old nothing really does — that a white reader
Street, between 10th and 11th,” you be- in any case, doesn’t capture what Jones is with prematurely gray hair who had ven- enters Jones’s world from a different
lieve him. And this trust extends beyond doing in these stories from “All Aunt Ha- tured out of Southeast for only the sixth angle. What comes as news to me may
geography into matters of history, gene- gar’s Children,” or in the sections of his time in his life — Caesar was tried for strike you as a gentle reminder of some-
alogy and family life. The word “realism” novel “The Known World” (2003) that murder in the second degree.” At the end of thing you always knew. What I feel as
isn’t quite adequate, and in any case not depart from a narrow set of assumptions the story “Common Law,” we are told that revelation you might experience as rec-
everything that happens in Jones’s Wash- about what might happen and why. While Georgia, a woman who has been trapped in ognition. Places that seem strange to my
ington can be called realistic. The Devil, he was making his way as a writer, Jones, an abusive relationship, is “one and a half eyes are no doubt home in someone
having swum across the Anacostia River, who was born in Washington in 1950, spent years from marrying Alvin Deloach,” else’s.
appears in a Safeway supermarket to time working at Science magazine and “more than eight years from marrying And realities that white people have
tempt and bamboozle a young mother then at a journal called Tax Notes, and Vaughn Anderson,” “just about 30 years the privilege of ignoring, euphemizing or
who secretly lusts after a man who isn’t there is a patient, empirical precision in his from seeing her first grandchild come into attempting to justify are part of the infra-
her husband. Another woman experi- writing that might be said to fit in with the the world” and “more than 40 and a half structure of Black existence. Children in
missions of those publications. His prose, years from death.” Jones’s stories are told that movie the-
A.O. SCOTTis a critic at large for The Times and even when it evokes natural mysteries and Sometimes the numbers are from aters and other amusements are off
the author of “Better Living Through Criti- complex emotions, is always exacting in its literal receipts — bills of sale for goods limits to them. Neighborhoods are broken
cism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, observation and meticulous in its account- and services, and in “The Known World,” up for redevelopment, discovered by
Beauty and Truth.” ing. The world he invites us to know is a which takes place mostly in Virginia in gentrifying “pioneers,” allowed to fall into

PHOTOGRAPH BY HILTON ALS


20 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 0 2 0
decay. The police show up now and then of her arrival in D.C. (where her mother City” begins with a delicate ject of the book, which centers
— useless, brutal, occasionally helpful. had thought “God and his people” must vignette called “The Girl Who on Henry’s death and its after-
The violence and cruelty of the Jim Crow live), and the reader samples some ex- Raised Pigeons.” The man who math.
South, and of slavery before that, is an cerpts, but in the end she stashes the gave the girl those pigeons is a But like the stories in “Lost
aspect of shared memory, as is the sweet- tapes in a drawer, “away from the things barber named Miles Patterson in the City” and “All Aunt
ness of life in a region about which some- she needed to get her hands on regu- whose remarkable origins are Hagar’s Children,” “The
one says, “It’s the worst mama in the larly,” and resolves never to listen again. related in the first story of “All Known World” moves freely, at
world and it’s the best mama in the Her biography is thus consigned to a Aunt Hagar’s Children,” called times vertiginously, in time
world.” kind of epistemological limbo, recorded “In the Blink of God’s Eye.” and space, propelling charac-
An ordinary word that Jones uses but not entirely known. And this kind of Georgia, the survivor of domes- ters and their descendants
frequently enough to make it feel half-light — the intuition that the whole tic abuse in “Common Law,” suddenly into the decades
freighted with special meaning is “peo- story can only be grasped through the figures in the title story of after Emancipation and invok-
ple.” It can refer to kin and community, flickers and shadows cast off by the facts “Lost in the City.” Those are, by the way, ing the perspectives of invented 20th-
but also to powerful collective entities — is part of the atmosphere of Jones’s the eighth stories in their respective century scholars to illuminate Manches-
that periodically assert their will and world. There is always more to be discov- books. ter County’s history. We are led on jour-
influence. “White people,” of course, and ered within its boundaries. Read a few After a while, you learn to pay close neys to Louisiana, Texas, the Carolinas,
“the world the white people had made for chapters of either collection and you will attention to the names and addresses. Philadelphia and Boston — and Washing-
themselves,” but also specialized depart- become aware of a distinctive chronolog- Have I met this person before? Will I be ton too, naturally — always circling back
ments within that world. “The Social ical rhythm, a way of pulling time for- seeing her again? Didn’t she and that to the knotted destinies of the people,
Security people.” “The city government ward, backward and sideways, slowing it other family live on the same block of H white and Black, enslaved and free, who
people.” “The American military people down and speeding it up. Street? Was it at the same time? Did they live on and around Henry’s plantation.
in Okinawa.” There is, I think, a quiet Jones comes close to inventing new verb know each other? These aren’t just puz- Their lives are linked, and defined, by
point being made by this locution, which tenses. “One day, you will see that Tennes- zles to solve, but invitations to reread, to the institution of slavery, another ab-
is that however much we may think see Creek again for the first time,” a wom- retrace your steps until you feel as if stract, dehumanizing system of laws and
about power and racism as systemic or an writes in a letter to a child she has those people know you too. customs that is also a network of human
structural phenomena, they are never recently met. “And I will see the house There is precedent for this method, of choices, desires, crimes and mercies. The
truly impersonal. Every injustice, like again for the first time.” The beginning of course, though I can’t think of any writer essential cruelty of the system is stark
every kindness, is carried out by human “Tapestry,” the closing story in who has sustained this kind of and simple — the threat and arrival of
beings, even if they are unaware of the “All Aunt Hagar’s Children,” intricate symmetry in books horrific violence, the forcible separation
effects of or reasons for what they do. offers a vivid, richly detailed published more than a decade of families, the unending plunder of dig-
Sometimes “the government people” and narrative of events that didn’t apart. James Joyce’s “Dub- nity, labor and joy — but life within it is as
others are benevolent, sometimes mean actually happen, but that would liners” is 15 stories set in and complicated as anywhere else. Like the
(generally they are less brutal than their have happened “were it not for around a single city, with some people we meet in Jones’s stories, every-
equivalents in Louisiana or Arkansas), the sleeping car porter.” It’s not similar echoes and overlap- one in “The Known World,” however brief
but their presence is always at once until four pages in that we learn pings. In the story “Bad our encounters with them, has a mind, a
intimate and alien, their rules and atti- the porter’s name, and at the Neighbors,” Jones has a book- soul and a destiny that defy caricature or
tudes arbitrary and often inscrutable. end, after he has married Anne loving high school student easy summary. They dwell in a terrible,
In “Marie,” the final story in “Lost in Perry (who might otherwise named Sharon Palmer fall for beautiful place that draws you back to it
the City,” Marie Delaveaux Wilson, a have married Lucas Turner, but a pair of books that seem to again and again.
widow living in an apartment at 12th and definitely not Ned Murray), provide a clue to her author’s Edward P. Jones, who turns 70 this
M, finds herself ensnared in a Kafka- Jones shifts back to a slightly influences: “The Street,” Ann year, has produced a compact body of
esque bureaucratic nightmare, sum- different subjunctive mood, as Anne pic- Petry’s multivocal, time-shifting 1946 work that keeps growing. I hope that he
moned by “the federal government peo- tures what would happen if she were to novel of life in Harlem; and the Irish adds to it, but I also think it’s bad man-
ple” to a meeting with a Social Security abandon her new husband. writer Mary Lavin’s “Tales From Bective ners for critics to demand more work
official who is never available to see her. His name, by the way, is George Carter, Bridge.” from the artists we admire. I’m content to
“Given the nature of life — particularly just like the young man in “Marie,” who “Lost in the City” and “All Aunt Ha- set aside a month each year to make my
the questions asked by the Social Securi- might be one of the 21 grandchildren or gar’s Children” communicate with each way, a story a day, through “Lost in the
ty people — she always took more than even 12 great-grandchildren noted in the other across the mighty expanse of “The City” and “All Aunt Hagar’s Children,”
they might ask for — her birth certificate, final passage of “Tapestry.” That seems Known World,” which won a Pulitzer and to make room on the calendar for
her husband’s death certificate, doctors’ likely. The temporal loops and echoes Prize. The novel is a major work about further explorations of “The Known
letters.” Receipts for her existence. don’t just happen within the stories, but American slavery that grows out of what World.”
In the face of this indignity, Jones al- between them. We are frequently meet- Jones calls the “footnote” that there were I’m also aware that every writer is
lows Marie a small gesture of rebellion: ing people again for the first time. Read- a few Black slaveholders in the antebel- unique, and that it’s absurd to dream of
She slaps the face of an inconsiderate ing the part of “Marie” in which she lum South. The principal “master” in the an Edward P. Jones for Wilmington, Del.,
receptionist named Vernelle. But the deters a would-be mugger by stabbing book is Henry Townsend. Henry’s father, or Cincinnati, or Salt Lake City. Washing-
story isn’t primarily about oppression his hand with a seven-inch knife she a skilled woodcarver named Augustus, ton, D.C., a city as neglected by our litera-
and defiance. It’s more about the way keeps in her coat pocket casts you back purchased his own freedom and then his ti as it is scorned by our politicians, is
certain dramatic moments occur in the to “Young Lions,” the fourth story in wife’s and their son’s, and was dismayed lucky to have this one.
flow of time and consciousness that de- “Lost in the City,” whose main character when his son grew up to purchase slaves But I do occasionally allow myself to
fines who a person is. The is Marie’s assailant, Caesar for himself. wish that Jones could somehow become a
episodes at the Social Security Matthews. He will return in “In 1855 in Manchester County, Virgin- government agency, something like the
office (at 21st and M, North- “Old Boys and Old Girls,” the ia” — a fictional “postage stamp,” like Census Bureau or the I.R.S., with a reach
west) are threaded through fourth story of “All Aunt Ha- William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, that could extend beyond Washington,
other memories and encoun- gar’s Children,” which follows slotted into the geography of the real across the Potomac and Anacostia
ters, including a series of inter- him through a stretch in prison. world — “there were 34 free Black fam- Rivers, past the Virginia and Maryland
views conducted by a Howard The links and knots are too ilies, with a mother and father and one state lines, moving block by block, house
University student named many to enumerate, and I’m by child or more, and eight of those free by house, in every direction, until every
George Carter as part of an no means sure that, after multi- families owned slaves, and all eight knew lost child and forgotten grandparent is
oral history project. Marie is ple readings, I have accounted one another’s business.” This business, accounted for and we see our country
willing to share reminiscences for all of them. “Lost in the intimate and economic, is the broad sub- again for the first time. 0

+ THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 21


Children’s Books / Graphic Novels / By Sheela Chari

Dynamic duos set out to solve mysteries for others


and end up uncovering truths about themselves.

RECENTLY MY DAUGHTER was searching 12-year-old poolgoer, a lurking stranger in


for her sketchbook when she found her a hat. Cucumber-cool Shirley breaks down
missing paintbrushes instead. Such is the the clues, but she isn’t the only sleuth. Does
recovery of lost belongings. You’re looking Jamila want to be friends with this prickly
for one thing, you find something else. I’ve know-it-all? She weighs the evidence
stumbled onto story ideas this way. I’m so (Shirley is “weird, but an interesting
sure I’m writing about a missing brother, weird”) and concludes their friendship is
when I discover I’m actually writing about indisputably worth it. Meanwhile, Shirley
empathy and self-acceptance. Most good finds it easier to solve crimes with Jamila
mysteries strike a graceful balance be- around. Here the novel deepens as the girls
tween plot and character development. discover another surprising truth: Every-
These three do just that, by inviting you to one deserves a chance to have his or her
look and look again, to uncover the stories story heard, even the guilty. With a sly nod
underneath. to the original Holmes and Watson, Shirley
From “Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer.”
and Jamila use their wits to connect, with
SHIRLEY & JAMILA SAVE THEIR SUMMER each other and their community.
By Gillian Goerz
FRIENDSHIP ALSO DRIVES “Elvin Link, Readers will keep turning pages to find secret society of mages, Rowan is assigned
224 pp. Dial. $20.99.
Please Report to the Principal’s Office,” by out if Elvin will solve his compounding to initiate them.
(Ages 8 to 12)
the New Yorker cartoonist Drew Der- problems and stay out of trouble. Fans of Meanwhile, the wealthy Roger Brad-
navich. Fifth-grader Elvin Link doodles — “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” and ford, a descendant of the town’s colonial
ELVIN LINK, PLEASE REPORT TO THE PRIN-
on desks, walls and lockers. The principal “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” will appreciate founders, unleashes an avalanche of con-
CIPAL’S OFFICE
gives him an ultimatum: Stop it or face Dernavich’s hilarious doodles, sight gags servative vitriol to suppress civil rights.
By Drew Dernavich
summer school. But when a hasty student and silly asides, including his renderings of His daughter, Rachel, to save herself from
224 pp. Christy Ottaviano/Holt. $16.99.
breaks a teacher’s eyeglasses in the school Elvin’s favorite expletive: “Turdmuffins.” her mother’s murderer, invokes Hecate,
(Ages 8 to 12)
parking lot during an ice-cream truck visit, There is more text here than in the typical the goddess of witchcraft. How Rachel is
before fleeing the scene, Elvin offers to graphic novel, but the story moves quickly, linked to Pete, Al and Charlie is revealed
THE WITCH’S HAND
draw a composite sketch from the Eazy and the deadpan illustrations will make deftly from panel to panel. Key illustra-
The Montague Twins series, Vol. 1
Freezy vendor’s description of the suspect. you laugh out loud. The plot becomes zani- tions that require a second look are richly
By Nathan Page and Drew Shannon
He does such a good job that the student is er as Elvin’s twin sisters get involved. rewarding. Bookended by the Stonewall
352 pp. Knopf. $25.99.
nabbed. Unfortunately it’s Carlos, Elvin’s Throughout, Elvin and Carlos play a varia- Rebellion, which spurred gay rights, and
(Ages 12 and up)
best friend. Fortunately, Carlos forgives tion of Frisbee they invented called Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, “The
him. Elvin soon has a bigger problem: Pe- flipdisc: Right before the toss, the thrower Witch’s Hand” reflects the turbulence of its
IN GILLIAN GOERZ’S “Shirley & Jamila Save ter Zorber, a notorious bully who’s bent on yells something desirable or disastrous, time. On the surface, it’s a spooky ghost
Their Summer,” 10-year-old basketball- giving Elvin the wedgie of his life. Not only “so you have to make a quick decision story, but the deeper mystery is how these
loving Jamila Waheed moves to a new that, but the T-shirts for Field Day go miss- whether it’s something you want to catch kids work together to rise above the terror
neighborhood, where she meets 10-year- ing, and Elvin and Carlos are suspects. . . . ‘Limo full of robots that clean your of being persecuted for who they are. 0
old loner Shirley Bones, who solves crimes room!’ . . . or not. ‘Poison-spitting llama!’ ”
for kids. Shirley orchestrates a deal be- When you finish reading, you might just
tween her mother and Jamila’s mother: make flipdisc your new summer sport.
She will accompany Jamila to the basket-
ball court every day so they can get out of SPEAKING OF SUMMER, Nathan Page and
going to their respective summer camps. Drew Shannon’s “The Witch’s Hand” — a
Then one day, a boy named Oliver needs gorgeously illustrated mystery that recalls
Shirley’s help. Someone has stolen his pet the Hardy Boys yet feels entirely fresh and
gecko, which he brought to the pool. The new — transports us to the summer of
girls investigate. 1969. After their parents’ unresolved dis-
Goerz’s easy, comic style, reminiscent of appearance, the twins Alistair and Pete,
the art in Raina Telgemeier’s books, brings now teenagers, were raised by a famed
her characters to life. She also thoughtfully professor and his wife, who also have a
portrays a diverse ensemble that includes teenage daughter, Charlie. Al is a brash
Jamila, whose family speaks Urdu and photographer who locks himself up in a
whose mother wears a hijab outside the closet to process his photos. Sweet, tender
home. Dynamic action and backdrops help Pete is in a closet, too, and his emotional
to frame the mystery. It’s fun to study a coming out to his brother is one of the hall-
full-page crime scene: the layout of the mark moments of the novel. Together, the
pool, the “doody” chocolate bar thrown in three teenagers investigate the haunts of
the water, the callous lifeguards, the shady their sleepy beach town. But following
their discovery of a mysterious box and
SHEELA CHARI’S new mystery novel, “The their sighting of a female spirit, the profes-
Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel,” From “Elvin Link, Please Report to the Princi- sor’s protégé, Rowan, finally tips them off:
will be published in October. pal’s Office.” The teens have magical powers. Part of a From “The Witch’s Hand.”

22 S U N DAY , AU G U ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
Best Sellers
For the complete best-seller lists, visit
nytimes.com/books/best-sellers

COMBINED PRINT AND E-BOOK BEST SELLERS SALES PERIOD OF JULY 26-AUGUST 1

THIS
WEEK
LAST
WEEK Fiction WEEKS
ON LIST
THIS
WEEK
LAST
WEEK Nonfiction WEEKS
ON LIST

1 DEADLOCK, by Catherine Coulter. (Gallery) The 24th book in the F.B.I. Thriller series. A
young wife, a psychopath and three red boxes puzzle agents Savich and Sherlock.
1
1 1 TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, by Mary L. Trump. (Simon & Schuster) The clinical
psychologist gives her assessment of events and patterns inside her family and how they
3

shaped President Trump.

2 1ST CASE, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. (Little, Brown) After getting kicked out 1
of M.I.T., Angela Hoot interns with the F.B.I. and tracks the murderous siblings known as
the Poet and the Engineer.
2 3 WHITE FRAGILITY, by Robin DiAngelo. (Beacon Press) Historical and cultural analyses on
what causes defensive moves by white people and how this inhibits cross-racial dialogue.
19

3 3 WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens. (Putnam) A young woman who survived
alone in the marsh becomes a murder suspect.
99
3 8 ON TYRANNY, by Timothy Snyder. (Tim Duggan) Twenty lessons from the 20th century
about the course of tyranny.
23

4 4 THE VANISHING HALF, by Brit Bennett. (Riverhead) The lives of twin sisters who run away
from a Southern Black community at age 16 diverge as one returns and the other takes
9
4 5 HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, by Ibram X. Kendi. (One World) A primer for creating a more
just and equitable society through identifying and opposing racism.
14

on a different racial identity but their fates intertwine.

5 7 UNTAMED, by Glennon Doyle. (Dial) The activist and public speaker describes her journey 21

5 2 THE ORDER, by Daniel Silva. (Harper) The 20th book in the Gabriel Allon series. 3 of listening to her inner voice.

6 1 NEAR DARK, by Brad Thor. (Emily Bestler/Atria) The 19th book in the Scot Harvath
series.
2
6 2 THE ANSWER IS ..., by Alex Trebek. (Simon & Schuster) Who is the Canadian-American
game show host whose pronunciation of the word “genre” has been shared widely on
2

social media?

7 5 THE GUEST LIST, by Lucy Foley. (Morrow) A wedding between a TV star and a magazine 9
publisher on an island off the coast of Ireland turns deadly. 7 9 BEGIN AGAIN, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (Crown) An appraisal of the life and work of James
Baldwin and their meaning in relation to current events.
5

8 6 28 SUMMERS, by Elin Hilderbrand. (Little, Brown) A relationship that started in 1993 7


between Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud comes to light while she is on her deathbed
and his wife runs for president.
8 4 HOW TO DESTROY AMERICA IN THREE EASY STEPS, by Ben Shapiro. (Broadside) The
conservative commentator describes what he perceives as threats to American ideals.
2

9 11 THEN SHE WAS GONE, by Lisa Jewell. (Atria) Ten years after her daughter disappears, a
woman tries to get her life in order but remains haunted by unanswered questions.
5
9 6 THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED, by John Bolton. (Simon & Schuster) The former
national security advisor gives his account of working for President Trump.
6

10 9 AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins. (Flatiron) A bookseller flees Mexico for the United
States with her son while pursued by the head of a drug cartel.
28
10 10 SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE, by Ijeoma Oluo. (Seal) A look at the contemporary
racial landscape of the United States.
11

The New York Times best sellers are compiled and archived by the best-sellers-lists desk of the New York Times news department, and are separate from the editorial, culture, advertising and business sides of The New York Times Company. Rankings
reflect unit sales reported on a confidential basis by vendors offering a wide range of general interest titles published in the United States. ONLINE: For complete lists and a full explanation of our methodology, visit www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers.

Editors’ Choice / Staff Picks From the Book Review


CASTE: The Origins of our Discontents, by Isabel KINGS COUNTY, by David Goodwillie. (Avid Reader, TO START A WAR: How the Bush Administration
Wilkerson. (Random House, $32.) The Pulitzer-win- $28.) Goodwillie’s novel about a group of youngish Took America Into Iraq, by Robert Draper. (Penguin
ning author advances a sweeping argument for friends in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, depicts its Press, $30.) Draper offers the most comprehensive
regarding American racial bias through the lens of thoughtful, appealing characters with genuine account of the Bush administration’s road to war,
caste. Drawing analogies with the social orders of sympathy and good-fellowship. Spanning a decade, underscoring that there was never any debate about
modern India and Nazi Germany, she frames barri- the story goes deep on friendship and the basic not invading Iraq.
ers to equality in a provocative new light. decency of humanity.
FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER, by Rachel Bean-
YOU HAD ME AT HOLA, by Alexis Daria. (Avon, paper, THE BEAUTY OF LIVING: E.E. Cummings in the Great land. (Simon & Schuster, $25.99.) Set in Atlantic City
$15.99.) This romantic tale of two actors who meet War, by J. Alison Rosenblitt. (Norton, $35.) This biog- in 1934, Beanland’s debut novel explores the lives of
cute on the set of a Latinx series — after her messy raphy zeros in on the poet’s formative years, first at a Jewish family struggling to conceal the drowning
breakup and his career setback — is a solid 7.5 on Harvard, where he fell under the spell of the Euro- of a cherished daughter for fear that her pregnant
the angst scale, and an absolutely pitch-perfect pean avant-garde, and then, during World War I, in sister will miscarry. Secrets abound — and so does
summer escape. France, where he spent time in prison, an experi- warmth.
ence that, Rosenblitt deftly shows, profoundly
THE VAPORS: A Southern Family, the New York LAKE LIFE, by David James Poissant. (Simon & Schus-
affected his work.
Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, Ameri- ter, $26.) This tale of a family getaway gone very
ca’s Forgotten Capital of Vice, by David Hill. (Farrar, RAISING A RARE GIRL: A Memoir, by Heather Lanier. wrong novel opens with a fatal accident, setting the
Straus & Giroux, $28.) Hill grew up in Hot Springs, (Penguin Press, $27.) What happens when your baby tone and pace for what follows. There’s a lot of bad
Ark., decades after its 20th-century heyday as the isn’t who you expected? Lanier writes movingly and behavior here, perhaps because Poissant is so good
boozy, freewheeling hangout of choice for gamblers, honestly of discovering her newborn has a genetic at writing it.
mobsters and crooked politicians; his book recre- disorder — and what it has been like to adore and
ates the giddy era with a delightfully light touch and advocate for a child who isn’t (as she tells her The full reviews of these and other recent books
a focus on the nightclub of the title. sister) what she signed up for. are online: nytimes.com/books

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 23


Inside the List PRINT | HARDCOVER BEST SELLERS SALES PERIOD OF JULY 26-AUGUST 1
EL I SA B E TH E GA N

...................................................
THIS
WEEK
LAST
WEEK Fiction WEEKS
ON LIST
THIS
WEEK
LAST
WEEK Nonfiction WEEKS
ON LIST

Writer’s Block Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


says he first envisioned “Begin Again,” 1 1 WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens. (Putnam)
In a quiet town on the North Carolina coast in 1969, a young
100
1 1 TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, by Mary L. Trump. (Simon
& Schuster) The clinical psychologist gives her assessment
3

now at No. 5 on the hardcover nonfiction woman who survived alone in the marsh becomes a murder of events and patterns inside her family and how they
list, as an intellectual biography of suspect. shaped President Trump.
James Baldwin: “But then I ran into this
wall. A year went by
and I hadn’t written a 2 4 THE VANISHING HALF, by Brit Bennett. (Riverhead) The
lives of twin sisters who run away from a Southern Black
9
2 4 HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, by Ibram X. Kendi. (One World)
A primer for creating a more just and equitable society
22

sentence.” community at age 16 diverge as one returns and the other through identifying and opposing racism.
While on sabbatical takes on a different racial identity but their fates intertwine.
from Princeton Uni-
versity, where he is a 3 6 UNTAMED, by Glennon Doyle. (Dial) The activist and 21

professor of African- 3 1ST CASE, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. (Little,
Brown) After getting kicked out of M.I.T., Angela Hoot
1 public speaker describes her journey of listening to her inner
voice.
American studies, interns with the F.B.I. and tracks the murderous siblings
‘I found my- Glaude rented an
self grappling apartment in St.
known as the Poet and the Engineer.
4 2 THE ANSWER IS ..., by Alex Trebek. (Simon & Schuster)
Who is the Canadian-American game show host whose
2

with my own Thomas, figuring: “If 4 3 THE ORDER, by Daniel Silva. (Harper) The 20th book in the 3 pronunciation of the word “genre” has been shared widely on
complex past.’ I’m going to write a Gabriel Allon series. social media?
book on Baldwin, I
need to be out of the
country. Baldwin said the best way to 5 2 NEAR DARK, by Brad Thor. (Emily Bestler/Atria) The 19th
book in the Scot Harvath series.
2
5 7 BEGIN AGAIN, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (Crown) An appraisal
of the life and work of James Baldwin and their meaning in
5

think about America is not to be in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Trump
America.” Hurricane Maria interfered
with this plan, so Glaude headed to 6 5 28 SUMMERS, by Elin Hilderbrand. (Little, Brown) A
relationship that started in 1993 between Mallory Blessing
7 presidency.

Heidelberg, Germany. Within an hour of


his arrival, he witnessed a horrific scene
and Jake McCloud comes to light while she is on her
deathbed and his wife runs for president.
6 3 HOW TO DESTROY AMERICA IN THREE EASY STEPS, by
Ben Shapiro. (Broadside) The conservative commentator
2

at a train station that changed the trajec- describes what he perceives as threats to American ideals. (†)
tory of his book: Four white policemen
7 6 THE GUEST LIST, by Lucy Foley. (Morrow) A wedding 9
piled on top of a distraught Black man.
Glaude describes the incident in the
between a TV star and a magazine publisher on an island off
the coast of Ireland turns deadly.
7 5 THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED, by John Bolton. (Simon
& Schuster) The former national security advisor gives his
6

introduction to “Begin Again”: “One account of working for President Trump.


officer had his knee in the man’s back;
8 DEADLOCK, by Catherine Coulter. (Gallery) The 24th book 1
the others twisted his arms.”
In a phone interview, Glaude says: “I
in the F.B.I. Thriller series. A young wife, a psychopath and
three red boxes puzzle agents Savich and Sherlock.
8 8 BREATH, by James Nestor. (Riverhead) A re-examination of
a basic biological function and a look at the science behind
7

went back to my apartment and started ancient breathing practices.


writing furiously. I realized what I
9 MEXICAN GOTHIC, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Del Rey) In 4
needed to do. I needed to work through
my own rage, my own despair, and offer
1950s Mexico, a debutante travels to a distant mansion
where family secrets of a faded mining empire have been
9 9 BECOMING, by Michelle Obama. (Crown) The former first
lady describes how she balanced work, family and her
86

an account of this moment.” kept hidden. husband’s political ascent.


That account — weaving biography,
literary criticism and social criticism 10 8 CAMINO WINDS, by John Grisham. (Doubleday) The line 14
10 10 EDUCATED, by Tara Westover. (Random House) The 128

with a thread of memoir — was origi- between fact and fiction becomes blurred when an author of daughter of survivalists, who is kept out of school, educates
nally scheduled to come out on April 24. thrillers is found dead after a hurricane hits Camino Island. herself enough to leave home for university.
Then the pandemic hit and Glaude’s
publication date was moved to Aug. 4; An asterisk (*) indicates that a book’s sales are barely distinguishable from those of the book above. A dagger (†) indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.

after George Floyd’s murder, it changed


again, to June 30. Glaude says: “We
thought the book spoke to the moment.
It was heart-wrenching. When I was Paperback Row / B Y JEN N IF ER KRAU S S
asked to comment, I found myself reach-
ing for Baldwin.” HABEN: The Deafblind Woman SWIFT: New and Selected Poems, TOUGH LOVE: My Story of the
Glaude was an undergraduate at Who Conquered Harvard Law, by by David Baker. (Norton, 208 pp., Things Worth Fighting For, by
Morehouse College when he first read Haben Girma. (Twelve, 288 pp., $15.95.) These autobiographical Susan Rice. (Simon and Schuster,
Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” He was $16.99.) In this inspiring memoir, poems are arranged in reverse 560 pp., $20.) The descendant of an
fascinated by the author’s ability to hold Girma recounts her Eritrean- chronological order, a choice our American slave on one side of her
American childhood, her parents’ reviewer, Eric McHenry, found family and Jamaican immigrants
onto rage and love at the same time, but, “curiously affecting”: “Parents die on the other, Rice shares the trials
he says, “it wasn’t until graduate school harrowing refugee experience, her
triumph as the first deafblind and then decline. A marriage ends, and triumphs of her career in
when I started reading him seriously. I’d graduate of Harvard Law School then flourishes. A child grows public service — assistant secre-
been avoiding him because I knew what and her career as an advocate younger. ... It’s as though the book’s tary of state, United Nations am-
he was going to do to me, how seriously fighting for people with disabilities. structure were another protest bassador, national security adviser
he took the dictum that an unexamined Along the way, she helps build a against time’s passage and the — and closes her book, according
live is not worth living.” Baldwin’s out- school in Mali, develops an innova- world’s degradation.” to our reviewer, Abby D. Phillip,
spokenness helped Glaude become a tive text-to-braille communication with “prescriptions for the exces-
more ambitious writer: “In order for me system, climbs an iceberg in THE BUTTERFLY GIRL, by Rene sive divisions and partisanship she
Alaska and meets with President Denfeld. (Harper Perennial, 288 pp., believes ail America.”
to be able to take a risk on the page, I
Obama at the White House. $16.99.) As this crime novel with a
had to be honest with myself. I found murderer on the loose builds to THE REVISIONERS, by Margaret
myself grappling with my own complex what our reviewer, Ivy Pochoda, Wilkerson Sexton. (Counterpoint, 288
FIND ME, by André Aciman. (Picador,
past. Part of that involves confronting referred to as “a propulsive de- pp., $16.95.) This novel that our
272 pp., $17.) The long-awaited
the fact that my father deposited fear in sequel to Aciman’s 2007 novel, nouement,” Naomi Cottle, the reviewer, Stephanie Powell Watts,
my gut from a very young age; I’ve “Call Me by Your Name,” picks up investigator from Denfeld’s previ- called “stunning” — narrated in
been trying to prove that I’m not scared the story of Elio and Oliver — ous thriller, “The Child Finder,” alternating chapters by two Black
ever since. I have these clusters of played by Timothée Chalamet and meets Celia, a 12-year-old homeless women experiencing racism a
stories around that fear that I have to Armie Hammer in the Oscar- runaway whose only solace is a century apart — won the NAACP
write through.” 0 nominated film — 15 years later. fantasy world of butterflies. Image Award.

24 S UNDAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2 0 2 0
AUDIO MONTHLY BEST SELLERS SALES PERIOD OF JUNE 28-AUGUST 1

THIS MONTHS THIS MONTHS


MONTH Audio Fiction ON LIST MONTH Audio Nonfiction ON LIST

1 THE SANDMAN, by Neil Gaiman and Dirk Maggs.


(Audible Originals) Lord Morpheus confronts an
1
1 TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, by Mary L.
Trump. (Simon & Schuster Audio) The clinical
1

array of fictional and historical characters. Read by psychologist gives her assessment of events and
Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, et al. 10 patterns inside her family and how they shaped
hours, 54 minutes unabridged. President Trump. Read by the author. 7 hours, 5
minutes unabridged.
2 PEACE TALKS, by Jim Butcher. (Penguin Audio) 1
The 16th book in the Dresden Files series. Read by
James Marsters. 12 hours, 52 minutes unabridged.
2 WHITE FRAGILITY, by Robin DiAngelo. (Beacon)
Historical and cultural analyses on what causes
3

defensive moves by white people. Read by Amy


3 THE GUEST LIST, by Lucy Foley. (HarperAudio)
A wedding between a TV star and a magazine
2 Landon. 6 hours, 21 minutes unabridged.

publisher on an island off the coast of Ireland turns


deadly. Read by Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia
3 HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, by Ibram X. Kendi.
(Random House Audio) A primer for creating a
4

Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens and Rich more just and equitable society through identifying
Keeble. 9 hours, 54 minutes unabridged. and opposing racism. Read by the author. 10 hours,
43 minutes unabridged.
4 WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, by Delia Owens. 23
(Penguin Audio) A young woman who survived
alone in the marsh becomes a murder suspect.
4 BREATH, by James Nestor. (Penguin Audio) A
re-examination of a basic biological function and
1

Read by Cassandra Campbell. 12 hours, 12 a look at the science behind ancient breathing
minutes unabridged. practices. Read by the author. 7 hours, 18 minutes
unabridged.
5 THE VANISHING HALF, by Brit Bennett. (Penguin 2
Audio) The lives of twin sisters who run away from
a Southern Black community at age 16 diverge but
5 THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED, by John Bolton.
(Simon & Schuster Audio) The former national
2
Make sense of the
their fates intertwine. Read by Shayna Small. 11
hours, 34 minutes unabridged.
security advisor gives his account of the 17 months
he spent working for President Trump. Read by
news, every day, with
Robert Petkoff. 20 hours, 52 minutes unabridged. David Leonhardt.
6 THE ORDER, by Daniel Silva. (HarperAudio) The 1
20th book in the Gabriel Allon series. Read by
George Guidall. 9 hours, 55 minutes unabridged.
6 UNTAMED, by Glennon Doyle. (Random House
Audio) The activist and public speaker describes
5

her journey of listening to her inner voice. Read by


7 THE SUMMER HOUSE, by James Patterson and
Brendan DuBois. (Hachette Audio) Jeremiah Cook,
2 the author. 8 hours, 22 minutes unabridged.

a veteran and former N.Y.P.D. cop, investigates a


mass murder near a lake in Georgia. Read by Ari
7 ALEXANDER HAMILTON, by Ron Chernow.
(Penguin Audio) A biography of the first Treasury
2
T5H8PZ0

Fliakos. 10 hours, 19 minutes unabridged. secretary and one of the Founding Fathers of the
United States. Read by Scott Brick. 36 hours, 2
8 28 SUMMERS, by Elin Hilderbrand. (Hachette
Audio) A relationship that started in 1993 between
2 minutes unabridged.

Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud comes to


light. Read by Erin Bennett. 15 hours, 26 minutes
8 HOW TO DESTROY AMERICA IN THREE EASY
STEPS, by Ben Shapiro. (HarperAudio) The
1

unabridged. conservative commentator describes what he


perceives as threats to American history, ideals and
9
The Morning
PRETTY THINGS, by Janelle Brown. (Random 1 culture. Read by the author. 6 hours, 19 minutes
House Audio) The daughter of a con artist and an unabridged.
heiress team up to pull off a big deceit. Read by
Julia Whelan, Lauren Fortgang and Hillary Huber.
16 hours, 6 minutes unabridged.
9 BECOMING, by Michelle Obama. (Random House
Audio) The former first lady describes how she
21

balanced work, family and her husband’s political


10 AMERICAN DIRT, by Jeanine Cummins. (Macmillan
Audio) A bookseller flees Mexico for the United
7 ascent. Read by the author. 19 hours, 3 minutes
unabridged.
States with her son while pursued by the head of a
drug cartel. Read by Yareli Arizmendi. 16 hours, 54
minutes unabridged.
10 TALKING TO STRANGERS, by Malcolm
Gladwell. (Hachette Audio) Famous examples
11

of miscommunication serve as the backdrop to


11 NEAR DARK, by Brad Thor. (Simon & Schuster
Audio) The 19th book in the Scot Harvath series.
1 explain potential conflicts. Read by the author. 8
hours, 42 minutes unabridged.
Read by Armand Schultz. 11 hours, 20 minutes
unabridged.
11 BORN A CRIME, by Trevor Noah. (Audible Studios)
A memoir by the host of “The Daily Show.” Read by
30

12 THE DUTCH HOUSE, by Ann Patchett.


(HarperAudio) A sibling relationship is impacted
10 the author. 8 hours, 50 minutes unabridged.

when the family goes from poverty to wealth and


back again over the course of many decades. Read
12 THE NEW JIM CROW, by Michelle Alexander.
(Recorded Books) A law professor on the “war
2

by Tom Hanks. 9 hours, 53 minutes unabridged. on drugs” and its role in the disproportionate
incarceration of Black men. Read by Karen Chilton.
13 THE SILENT PATIENT, by Alex Michaelides.
(Macmillan Audio) A famous painter stops
18 16 hours, 57 minutes unabridged.

speaking after shooting her husband. Read by Jack


Hawkins and Louise Brealey. 8 hours, 43 minutes
13 EDUCATED, by Tara Westover. (Random House
Audio) The daughter of survivalists, who is kept out
28

unabridged. of school, educates herself enough to leave home


for university. Read by Julia Whelan. 12 hours, 10
14 MEMOIRS AND MISINFORMATION, by Jim Carrey
and Dana Vachon. (Random House Audio) A
1 minutes unabridged.

character named Jim Carrey navigates stardom and


its excesses in a satire that borrows heavily from
14 BEGIN AGAIN, by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (Random
House Audio) An appraisal of the life and work of
1

the life of the celebrity Jim Carrey. Narrated by Jeff James Baldwin and their meaning in relation to
Daniels. 7 hours, 50 minutes unabridged. current events. Read by the author. 7 hours, 44 Sign up for the newsletter
minutes unabridged.
nytimes.com/themorning
15 MEXICAN GOTHIC, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. 1
(Random House Audio) In 1950s Mexico, a
debutante travels to a distant mansion where
15 EXTREME OWNERSHIP, by Jocko Willink and Leif
Babin. (Macmillan Audio) Applying the principles of
27

family secrets of a faded mining empire have been Navy SEALs leadership training to any organization.
kept hidden. Read by Frankie Corzo. 10 hours, 39 Read by the authors. 8 hours, 15 minutes
mintues unabridged. unabridged.

Audiobook rankings are composed of sales in the United States of digital and physical audio products from the previous month. Sales of titles are statistically weighted to represent
and accurately reflect all outlets proportionally nationwide. Free-trial or low-cost trial audiobook sales are not eligible for inclusion. Publisher credits for audiobooks are listed under
the audiobook publisher name. ONLINE: For more lists and a full explanation of our methodology, visit www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 25
The Shortlist / Women in Politics / By Christina Cauterucci

THIS IS WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE SAY IT LOUDER! SHE WILL RISE
My Journey From Refugee to Congresswoman Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality
By Ilhan Omar Democracy By Katie Hill
275 pp. Dey Street. $27.99. By Tiffany D. Cross 304 pp. Grand Central. $28.
240 pp. Amistad. $23.99.
“I am still trying to figure out where I fit in,” Hill, a former congressional representative
Omar writes in the prologue to her memoir. A free press works as a pillar of democracy from California, has written her political mani-
During her childhood in Somalia, her four only to the degree that it reflects the society festo as a battle plan. In this impassioned
years in a Kenyan refugee camp and her it covers. So argues Cross, a political ana- introduction to the gender inequities of 21st-
adolescence in Minneapolis, Omar felt at lyst, in this lively memoir and polemic, century America, women are warriors, the
odds with her peers: as a tomboy, as the which traces the history of white media from battlefield is our lives and the mission is a
child of parents from two different Somali Southern newspapers that facilitated lynch- policy agenda somewhat myopically aligned
clans and as a teenager caught between American dat- ings in the early 20th century — precursors with bills Hill supported during her months in Congress.
ing culture and family expectations of modesty. Adult- to Breitbart, Cross says — to the CNN newsroom she Early in “She Will Rise,” Hill grapples with the possibility
hood brought more barriers to belonging. Somali elders entered in the early 2000s, where white colleagues that her resignation — in response to the publication of
in Minnesota opposed Omar’s entry into politics, deem- bonded over cultural references she didn’t share. Cross intimate photos of her with a campaign staffer — will
ing it an unsuitable venture for a woman. After she won insists that, by ignoring Black perspectives and misrep- discourage other young women from entering politics. (Hill
her first political campaign — “the most painful and resenting Black lives, the American press has never fully maintains that her estranged husband leaked the photos;
joyous thing I’ve ever done outside of giving birth” — a served its purpose as a driver of informed civic engage- he claims he was hacked.)
fellow legislator mocked her hijab. “This Is What Amer- ment. “If, as The Washington Post declares, democracy Despite the strides made against de jure sexism in the
ica Looks Like” is the origin story of a leader who, find- dies in darkness, it also dies in whiteness,” she writes. past century, Hill argues, women’s lives remain hemmed in
ing no set path that would take a person like her to the “Say It Louder!” doesn’t offer much in the way of by policies — and, in some cases, a lack thereof — devised
places she wanted to go, was forced, and free, to chart original reporting. Instead, Cross aggregates several by men. Her solution is simple: “We should vote for wom-
her own. generations’ worth of media trends — under-covering en . . . *gasp* BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN.”
The memoir offers breathing room for Omar, who has voter suppression, blaming the victims of police killings Her whirlwind recap of past feminist movements can be
been the target of racist attacks and whose history-mak- for their own deaths — to show how the industry has reductive, and her liberal use of the first-person plural —
ing tenure in Congress has been marked by disputes with failed to earn Black Americans’ trust. Cross’s straight “when we are assaulted . . . our minds are already warped
colleagues, especially over their support for Israel, in the talk might be hard for some news editors and pundits to to the point that we are afraid it’s our fault if a man hurts
claustrophobic confines of Twitter threads. Her efforts to hear, but she makes clear that it’s in the country’s best us” — suggests a commonality of experience at odds with
deter further outrage are evident throughout the book, interest for them to listen: In 2016, hungry for public contemporary feminist thought. But if Hill’s intended audi-
which barely touches topics that have inflamed her crit- voices that reflected and affirmed their lives, Black ence is politically disaffected young women who could be
ics. (She explains her criticism of Israel by quoting from a voters were especially vulnerable to Russian social nudged into action by a dismal cascade of data points, “She
2019 op-ed she published in The Washington Post.) But, media postings aimed at keeping them home on Election Will Rise” makes a decent primer. Hill heads off familiar
with unrepentant recollections of schoolyard brawls with Day. lines of skepticism with frank explanations for why some
bullies, Omar bolsters her image as a scrapper constitu- While Cross’s sense of the media’s impact on individual women need abortions later in pregnancy, why rape sur-
tionally incapable of backing down. “Fighting didn’t feel candidates may be exaggerated, her proposed solutions vivors don’t always file police reports and why women
like a choice,” she writes. “It was a part of me.” are practicable and wise. Pollsters should retire the often stay with perpetrators of domestic abuse. The last is
The hardships Omar has endured in her adopted home imprecise concept of “the Black vote” with larger sample a struggle Hill knows well; her personal revelations
country, which she recounts in unsparing detail, make a sizes and more disaggregation of Black respondents; ground that chapter’s statistics in the urgency of real life.
strong argument for the value of diversity in public office. journalists should spend less time parsing the “full-on Yet her self-reflection doesn’t extend to the scandal that
Unfamiliar with the landscape of American higher educa- minstrel show” of Black Trump supporters, who make up prompted her book. Hill brushes off her relationship with
tion, she enrolled in an unaccredited college that didn’t give a vanishingly small proportion of Black voters. As for the staffer as a “gray area” that can’t be explained in the
her adequate financial aid. Later, she struggled to cope politicians, Cross’s book could be a wake-up call for those “zero-tolerance” terms of the #MeToo movement, and
with an unplanned pregnancy and her role as her family’s whose careers hinge on Black support — including Joe insists that her husband constrained her social circles so
sole breadwinner and caregiver. These are common experi- Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nomi- completely that her campaign was her only outlet for
ences in this country, but ones that remain unfamiliar to a nee, who in May said Black voters “ain’t Black” if they’re intimacy. Her unwillingness to call her relationship with
large majority of federal legislators. The Somali-American still deciding between him and Trump. The way Cross the staffer what it was — an unambiguous ethical violation
congresswoman who fled a war zone overseas may be tells it, taking Black voters for granted is the fastest way — is all the more glaring in light of the book’s premise: that
more representative of the average American than her to lose them: “Black people are not loyal to any particu- women in office conduct themselves better than the men
colleagues who’ve lived here since birth. lar political party; Black people are loyal to ourselves.” who outnumber them.

CHRISTINA CAUTERUCCI is a staff writer at Slate and host of the podcast “Outward.”
ILLUSTRATION BY JOHN GALL
26 S U N DAY , AU GU ST 1 6 , 2 02 0
Close-Up / The Bookshelf Detective Is Back / By Gal Beckerman with Noor Qasim
Let’s gawk at famous people’s bookshelves.

Tom Hanks Regina King Charlamagne tha God


On the “Today” show, July 7 On “Late Night With Seth Myers,” June 12 On “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” June 3

1. The Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson: Transcripts 1. “Waiting to Exhale,” by Terry McMillan: The 1992 hit about the 1. “Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity From the Lyri-
of 700 hours of telephone conversations that Johnson secretly friendship of four women in their 30s supporting one another cal Genius,” by Rakim: This writing guide from the legendary
recorded that include his dealings with the Kennedys, cursing through the frustrations of looking for love. rapper offers tips on how to get the lyrics flowing.
about Vietnam and his push to help the cause of civil rights.
2. “Tupac Shakur Legacy,” by Jamal Joseph: Curated by a family 2. “Raw,” by Lamont “U-God” Hawkins: One of the founding mem-
2. “St. Marks Is Dead,” by Ada Calhoun: This close-up look at the friend, this “interactive biography” of the rapper includes bers of the Wu-Tang Clan tells the story of his rise from the
history of an idiosyncratic New York City street where both photos of Shakur’s home life and reproductions of handwritten streets of Brownsville in New York City to the world’s biggest
Emma Goldman and the Beastie Boys partied is also a medita- lyrics. stage.
tion on all that changes in urban spaces and all that stays the
same. 3. “Barack Like Me,” by David Alan Grier: A memoir by the co- 3. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” by Malcolm X and Alex Ha-
median best known for his work on “In Living Color” that ley: The classic about the radicalization of Malcolm Little.
3. “The History of Manned Space Flight,” by David Baker: A very muses on politics and race in the age of Obama.
complete history of the early space missions — Mercury, Gemi- 4. “Civil War Battlefields,” by David T. Gilbert: Maps and archival
ni, Apollo and onward — for the NASA geek. photos of more than 30 Civil War battlefields.

Yo-Yo Ma Patti LuPone Colin Powell


On Instagram, May 23 On “Take Me to the World: On Montgomery College’s YouTube account, May 22
A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration,” April 26
1. “The Black Count,” by Tom Reiss: The true story of General 1. “Slave Nation,” by Alfred W. Blumrosen and Ruth G. Blumrosen:
Alex Dumas, the son of a Black slave who inspired “The Count 1. “All the Little Live Things” and “Wolf Willow,” by Wallace Steg- On the role of slavery in the drafting of the United States Consti-
of Monte Cristo” and other swashbuckling tales written by his ner: Sweeping novels about the joys and quirks of life out West. tution.
son, Alexander Dumas.
2. “Unity Mitford,” by David Pryce-Jones: A biography of the Mit- 2. “Bloods,” by Wallace Terry: An oral history of 20 Black men
2. “With Your Own Two Hands,” by Seymour Bernstein: A best-sell- ford sister who became an unabashed fascist. who were drafted to fight in Vietnam.
ing guide from the early 1980s that advertises itself on the cover
3. “My Life in Art,” by Konstantin Stanislavsky: The 1924 autobi- 3. “Black Spark, White Fire,” by Richard Poe: Poe proposes that it
as a way to “overcome stage fright and nervousness” and “real-
ize your full potential.” ography of the great Russian actor and theater director whose was Black Egyptian explorers who planted the rudiments of
“method” came to define acting as an art for generations. Western civilization in Europe 3,000 years ago.
3. “Play It Again,” by Alan Rusbridger: How Rusbridger, who was
4. “Stage Left,” by Jay Williams: A history of the radical theater 4. “Warriors of Color,” by Harold Ray Sayre: A look at Black sol-
the editor of The Guardian, decided to solve his midlife crisis by
attempting to master, within a year, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G movement of the 1930s, when the Depression brought left-wing diers of the 10th Cavalry who served in the military just after
minor, a notoriously challenging piano composition. ideas to the stage. the Civil War.

GAL BECKERMAN is an editor at the Book Review. NOOR QASIM is an editing fellow at the Book Review.

PHOTOGRAPHS, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: NBC(2); CBS; MONTGOMERY COLLEGE; BROADWAY.COM
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW 27
A collection of reviews for the
1,000 most important, popular and
influential movies of all time.
The new book from Rizzoli New York
AVAILABLE WHEREVER FINE BOOKS ARE SOLD.

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