RavePasteWhen you think about Great Thinkers—those old white men with their Great White Thoughts on politics, society, morality, religion, science war—you’ll gradually recognize how they’ve tried to sell their thoughts to the entire world. And yet not a single one could sell their ideas with the passion and verve of E. Jean Carroll ... a master class in making a person believe ... she has the voice—the stylized, unmistakable, read-her-writing-about-anything kind of voice—to make a reader want to pick up whatever she’s putting down ... handled with a swashbuckling ease, even in the face of rape and grievous assault ... Carroll strikes chords that should reverberate in any empathetic person, which makes selling the proposal of turning men into chemical scrap seem like a good idea ... Carroll’s makes you feel that way because she has a voice, which brings us to number three: if you want to write something that changes the world, you better be able to write! ... Her rhetoric flashes by with the speed and power of a Formula 1 car. Fantastically written but so friendly to follow, and broken up with lists and photos, Carroll’s book is readable in a way the Great Thinkers are not and can never be.
PositivePasteThis relationship may sound undesirable or even detestable to those who wish to see Asian elephants living free. But as Shell’s book makes clear, it’s their role as laborers, rather than as tourist attractions, which may save the species. It’s a moral area as grey as the elephant’s flesh, but worth examining if the world’s endangered Asian elephant population is going to survive ... It’s a controversial position to insist that some of these intervention methods may be the best for the animals, but time is quickly running out. By making Asian elephants an important part of the economy and appealing to the most powerful of human motivations, greed, these creatures may yet be saved.
PositivePaste... provides the blueprint for safeguarding our society in the future by refusing to fall into whatever dogma du jour currently dominates the discipline, lest we be whipsawed by complacency ... every outbreak in Honigsbaum’s history leaves us better prepared for the next ... reveals that we need vigilance and open minds to survive the coming decades.
PositivePaste\"We share more similarities with Riddance’s stuttering children, who channel ghosts and even walk among them, than we share with most characters. The novel’s language, alluring and sometimes inscrutable, reflects the unknown that lies beyond, around and within us. \
PanPasteTo invite a novelist to opine upon fiction is to beg for brutal exhaustion. Novelists, it seems, have spent a great deal of time analyzing their art, which is no less than storytelling. They will exsanguinate all but their most hagiographic fans as their stories turn to essays turn to ash. It’s not surprising that Philip Pullman is guilty of the same crimes in Daemon Voices, his essay collection which assays the idea of stories and their telling. Pullman tends to belabor his battle axes—most notably in the academic speech \'Poco a Poco,\' whose very title promises torture. He so infuriatingly atomizes his particular point in said essay that I had to skip the next two laborious academic speeches ... Whatever the case may be, it should be noted that for all its fatal wanderings, Daemon Voices does hit on one timely subject changing the shape of shared culture ... It’s the author’s responsibility to pluck and arrange the points in a semi-linear format for the reader to follow ... But when even the book’s editor writes in the foreword about the repetition of the ideas to come, either a shorter book or a more ruthless editor is needed.
PositivePasteBrettschneider’s book is written as a fireside chat between expert and executive, positioning the reader in the second person as the president and offering scenarios lifted and tweaked from the headlines to illustrate the interactions between the president and the Constitution. Truly, it’s between the president and the people. Broadly broken down into the president’s powers, the powers of the citizenry and the checks America’s people, judges and lawmakers can utilize to ensure said powers remain in balance, The Oath and The Office highlights the egalitarian power possible in a charitable, intelligent reading of the Constitution. It also reveals how far afield the current president is from those interpretations ... When at the very pinnacles of government the respect required of all parties to operate in a republic is flagrantly disregarded, it’s the job of the people and the Constitution to ensure such disrespect is punished. The Oath and The Office makes it clear that we are close to a reckoning.
Astrid Holleeder, Trans. by Welmoed Smith and Caspar Wijers
PositivePasteAstrid Holleeder’s life sounds like the plot of an airport novel ... The only moments she seems shaken in Welmoed Smith and Caspar Wijers translation of her memoir, Judas, come when she’s forced to reckon with the bond of family. It is her possession of everything her brother lacks—sympathy, humanity—which most endangers her chance of mitigating his terror ... Judas succeeds in offering an inside look at the chthonian society few of us will ever dare approach. More importantly, it is a portrait of bravery and righteous betrayal we pray we will never actualize.
Ed. by Arjun Singh Sethi
RavePasteAmerican Hate gives voice to the only people who matter: the survivors of hate crimes in America. It wrestles the microphone away from the frogs and Nazis, dedicating its pages to true tales of violence and hate. Aside from an introduction and constructive conclusion, even editor Arjun Singh Sethi barely exists between American Hate’s covers ... In choosing to tell the stories in the survivor’s own words, Sethi removes American Hate from the realm of journalism and places it squarely into testimony. By leaving each story in the hands of the survivors, he ensures their agency and empowerment. This is collection as corrective, a black and white anodyne. Sethi ensures the reader’s empathy, providing portrait after portrait of human beings—not victims or soundbites ... it should be required reading for schools, for workplaces, for anyone and everyone who has never been etched by the acid blood which runs through this alien nation. American Hate is the new testament which rends the shroud; it is powerful, it is crucial, and we must act to ensure it never needs to be written again.
RavePasteRather than take the end of days as a chance for the usual pontifications on societal collapse—most seemingly ignorant that we built society from nothing the first time, and we would certainly do it again—Ma uses the disaster trope for interrogation on a scale small enough to lacerate ... Candace intersperses the usual intimacies of a wordier lit with the trappings of the genre piece her life has become. It’s the tensions between the two that prove Ma’s skill and provide a compelling reason for reading. By focusing on such small-scale issues in the wake of a catastrophe, Ma illuminates a person in the dystopia. Candace’s world is slowly dismantled, her mind buried in work, her eyes in a camera’s viewfinder, until it has dissolved away. There is little to fear or to forget. Where so many other works falter is in their failure to do the same.
Linda D. Dahl
RavePaste Magazine\"Linda D. Dahl, one of boxing’s few female fight doctors, delivers a book whose perspective can safely be labeled \'distinct\' ... In examining the classic fight to survive with a lens that feels paradoxically universal and unique, Dahl has written a memoir with enough fisticuffs for the fight fan, enough medicine for the scalpel supplicant and enough human drama for anyone who has ever felt alienated ... Dahl’s punchy prose maintains two feet squarely on the ground, plugging away at the challenges she faced in the male-dominated worlds of medicine and boxing ... In atavistic victory or poleaxed defeat, Dahl views her powerful reflection in a blood-sprayed mirror.\
RavePasteWhere the Trump White House reads as The Scottish Play, equal parts snake pit and crab bucket, Dorey-Stein’s White House is socially complex yet soapy, the imminent end of Obama’s term—and the ad hoc universe which spun around him—sand through the hour glass ... Dorey-Stein reveals the joy which can be found serving at the pleasure of a President one believes in. In a glass cutter voice equal parts Sorkin and Weisberger, Dorey-Stein writes the perfect anodyne to the cruelty of the politics of the moment, unafraid of reveling in the love affairs and cliques which come caked in sweat and the enamel of ground teeth. She tells us of people, an incredibly difficult and rare thing to achieve in the realm of political writing; the effect is something like being pulled aside as a freshman by the captain of the lacrosse team—the one the players love, not fear—and feeling the effervescent inspiration.
RavePasteWritten with superannuated style, the rhetorical flair blooming like ancient heliotropes from Sheppard’s true confessions, Rosenberg’s Sheppard and Bess highlight the Western canon for an audience that has always existed. This is less revelation than reclamation, not a reimagining but a correction for what has been edited out ... In Confessions of the Fox, Sheppard—the Gaol-breaker General—makes the most important escape yet from the onus of history and the deluge of brutal policing. It’s as a miraculous and awe-inspiring flight as the Newgate death sentence slip, a Confession which deserves to inspire the new hagiography.
PositivePasteGabel’s musicians are struck like a chord, interpersonal pains and private neurosis filling in the rests between the notes. They surrender themselves to each other and to the music. Her exploration of their pain comes intermittently, with little warning and lasting consequences, like injury itself, but it lingers longer than the tired beats of relationships. What more intimate relationship exists, after all, than the one between owner and body? The Ensemble reveals this relationship to be rich in horror and honor, a harmony of sacrifice, the sheer exhaustion of performing stretched across the staff as a rack, music notes written in blood.
Witold Szablowski, Antonia Lloyd-Jones
RavePaste MagazineWhat seems an impossible longing comes into cogent focus, as Szablowski transcribes their odd position. They mourn their jobs—their purpose—on the collective farms. They find themselves on the losing side of the class disparity. They see no traces of the glory and joy that is meant to accompany their freedom ... The dancing bears are beginning to bellow as they return back to blood. Freed from the cause of their suffering, but not the suffering itself, they revert to ingrained actions. They continue to dance in the face of any pain. Whatever the bears become when the dancing finally ends will determine the new shape of our world.
RavePasteIn powerful language shaped by the winds and tides, Badkhen not only describes the fishers’ lives but also imbues them with an energy that borders on the uncanny. What Badkhen understands is that exceptional writing—the kind that makes readers weep and fellow writers snap pens in admiring frustration—need not get in the way of truth or reality. In fact, it can enhance them, creating a kind of hyperreality more akin to thought than physical experience. Badkhen’s rhetorical dancing along the shore captures the essence of life on the Atlantic’s edge in a way no normal paragraph could ever hope to achieve; it is reality-as-poem, an eternal elegy for moments that are already dead and a society that will eventually die as well.
PositivePaste MagazinePart memoir, part translation, part treatise and part contextual study, Paradise finds Allen interpreting her Uncle Bob’s writings after he mails her his autobiography ... Despite the disease’s popular conception, Bob’s paranoia in Paradise is not a dramatic aspect of the narrative. In this way, it mirrors my own experience with the sensation, something more akin to an Instagram filter or background radiation, devious and powerful and hidden in its omnipresence ... So it’s significant that Allen’s subtle portrayal of paranoia in a book about schizophrenia does the disorder justice by not naming it. Tinfoil hats and webs of thread removed, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise asks you to consider the disease by demonstrating it in the way I live it: always on the periphery, impossible to disentangle, necessary to navigate as best as one can.
PositivePaste Magazine...[McDermott] combines the brutal realities of his experiences with gallows-dwelling white trash humor... Using humor to drive home a crucial point — that a destigmatized society where people get the treatment they need would be a more cost-effective and humane one — is McDermott’s signature. He believes that speaking frankly about mental illness is crucial to improving how we treat it, and he is seizing the opportunity that interviews like this one have given him ... Even when writing about the abject conditions in psychiatric hospitals from New York to Kansas, McDermott knows the value of his voice in making the story human ...he also realizes that, like a political cartoonist or jester, it’s the ability to use humor to highlight true issues that can set a message apart.
PositivePasteJust as the history of coffee helps to secure Yemen’s place in the geography of the mind, experiencing the outbreak of the civil war from Alkhanshali’s vantage point sets the war. From blood and bodies and bullets, Alkhanshali’s experience—his tragic adventure—provides a small, developing sample of a whole, a Polaroid flash in a black sea … Eggers inserts us directly into a conflict we need to understand. What happens in a Gulf State thousands of miles from American soil may not seem cogent to our everyday life, but what happens to one society has an indelible effect on us all. The Monk of Mokha is a small, and therefore inevitably incomplete, portrait of the war. It’s remarkably bloodless, practically picaresque, but it’s also approachable.
Melissa del Bosque
RavePaste MagazineIn Bloodlines, Melissa del Bosque tracks a sprawling web of cocaine and quarter horses spanning the Rio Grande ... Operating in between are the book’s true subjects: the law enforcement officers, criminal operators, and citizens of the Texas/Mexico border ... Set from 2009 to 2013 during the rise of the Zeta cartel, Bloodlines details the FBI’s investigation into Zetas boss Miguel Treviño’s horse racing empire ... By virtue of keeping her reporting clean and concise, del Bosque easily steers readers through Treviño’s international financial crimes spiked with brutality — the kind that would make Michael Lewis’ usual suspects blush ...she [del Bosque] brings a slice of the abstracted drug war into heart-rending focus, turning the bloody diamond before her loupe so that each facet becomes clear ... As the eyetooth-flashing nationalists come blinking into the light, del Bosque’s book is a reminder of what many of the immigrants who fled Mexico and Central America have faced. They are refugees from a war they did not start, victims of an appetite that is not their own.
PositivePaste MagazineHer diaries of that time — festooned with all the best names in literature, art, media, business, politics — open with her burning love of media ... What Brown’s fiery diaries make clear is that in times of chaos and tumult, when celerity threatens to tear us apart, the battlements will be manned by the voices of our best and our worst ... Sans cocaine-decade cash and facing the officially sanctioned scorn of the highest office, the Media in the Age of Trump must be what Brown’s Vanity Fair was: intelligent and approachable, incisive and fun, hearing aid and bullhorn, crusader and sybarite.
RavePaste MagazineThick and information-laden as the internet cacophony, Young’s book proves a worthy and exhaustingly researched read ...what Bunk makes very clear is that a hoax doesn’t get by on gullibility so much as suck on our societal marrow, subsuming grief, hubris and race. These pathologies are what afflict Young’s subject — especially in the hoax-scape wherein all three meet ...Young makes clear that hoaxes throughout history have race at their core ...Bunk reveals it [our society's fake news] can be navigated only through careful reason, patience and a refusal to die blind.
PositivePaste...delicious, biting, xenomorph-blood-acidic satire ... Eastman Was Here equal parts distressing and cathartic. Distressing in that A) Gilvarry’s satire is so spot on it can be uncomfortable (which is to its credit), and B) there is doubtless some aspiring writer out there who is reading about poor Eastman’s successes and nodding his head yes. He is, of course, a lost cause until he finds himself anyway, but the fear still creeps ... The real question is, can we enjoy Gilvarry’s vicious joke in a moment in time wherein the Fragile Male Egos he’s mocking are bellowing their death rattle? Can we enjoy the righteous pressure on the sinking porcelain porcine while King Pig himself is on the throne? Is the toxicity level too high for venom to be effective? Or is now the perfect time? I suspect the answer to these questions depends on the reader. As a cis-straight-white-male-narcissist myself, I thrill at Gilvarry’s thorough and surgical dismemberment of my peers. Where I anyone else, however, I suspect I’d feel that Eastman’s fate isn’t harsh enough. Even now, part of me prays that he had found his tortured brain aerosolized in Vietnam.
RavePasteAs a masterful example of the form, it comes as no surprise that Christopher Bollen’s The Destroyers not only knows exactly what it is—a slow-burning literary thriller—but also revels in it. The Destroyers is built of a tension almost sexual in its luxuriousness; it’s all gleaming seas and waxed wooden decks, the warmth of burned flesh and vodka, the metallic taste of blood and lucre, with the effortless indomitability of a yacht bobbing along a bleached-bone dock ... Availing himself to as romantic a backdrop as one could ever hope—not only the island itself, rich with ruin and religion and, well, riches, but also the twin eddies of the Greek economic crash and the Mediterranean refugee crisis—Bollen’s writing echoes both Patmos and the famous words brought up from its core. Sun-blasted prose is pocked with marvelous turns of phrase, and his pawns twist, flay and leak acid like lemons. Every painful and sexy and mysterious moment proves alluringly repulsive, like the heat—from behind designer sunglasses—of the vacation sun…or the end of the world.
RavePasteKlosterman is obviously intelligent, and he obviously cares about popular culture ... The very book itself mimics the cultural essay—important but inherently unnecessary. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Klosterman is a master of the high-low, his writing the rhetorical equivalent of Paul Rudd’s Amnesty International shirt in Clueless. He injects a level of intellectual rigor into subjects that receive precious little in comparison to their importance to the average person ... Klosterman’s essays matter, because—despite focusing on a bunch of middle-aged-white-guy-things—their content tackles well-known subjects. These are not meditations on obscure punk records; these are treatises on KISS, for fuck’s sake. It’s like pulling David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster from a black backpack covered in Toy Machine patches and poorly rendered Sharpie doodles. Klosterman pulls the literary equivalent of Jeff Koons’ art—validating your love of something with nary a pat on the head in sigh.
RavePasteIt takes someone with orange juice in their veins and alligators in their heart to truly bring the lessons of a place as complex as Florida to bear. To look past the banalities and old-hand shorthand which marks our discourse over the state—most of it joking—requires a native. Sarah Gerard, of Pinellas County, is just that person ... Sunshine State does not provide easy answers to any of the questions it dredges up, nor is it meant to; it is left to the reader—and the nation—to sift through the mangrove mud and crab carapaces.
PositivePasteThe image of the addict as hopelessly in the gutter, completely incapable of functioning, is torn asunder. She has crippling depressive periods, of course, wherein she does nothing for days, weeks, months, but Marnell is a voltaic little bee for much of her memoir, omnipresent around Magazine World. It would be impossible to deny her work ethic, drug-derived or not; Marnell’s desire to work in magazines and publishing is a constant lodestar, even if one being navigated while on a particularly unstable fuel source ... Marnell’s inglorious exit from her beauty editor position at Lucky—from Condé, her dream company; from her boss Jean Godfrey-June, who, one gets the impression, she truly loved; from Magazine World, which she has desperately desired since childhood—is akin to watching a plane crash. We know how it will end, but it’s still captivating in its accelerated agony ... The afterword features a healthier Marnell, albeit with an orange bottle still by her side (but taken with moderation). Defying the Bull Run picnickers and the NA crowd, she is an addict and a living human being, and a gloriously contrarian one at that. This book is the embossed, bound, printed proof.
RavePasteAn authoritative account of a bleak time in human history, the book spans both abject horror and radiant hope—regularly moving you to tears ... When science and society come together, France’s history transforms from gutting tragedy to human triumph. And with each false breakthrough, life shattered, and new day, How To Survive A Plague lives up to its name, providing a blueprint for our continued existence ... The lesson of How To Survive A Plague is this: Even in the face of one of the Four Horsemen, whipsawed by a particularly canny virus and our own prejudices, we can and will empathize, organize, fight, and live.
MixedPasteCertain Dark Things is a finely stitched Halloween costume, deriving most of its horror and pleasure from the very human bones beneath it ... For the most part, Moreno-Garcia’s rhetorical gifts pale in comparison to her creative ones; the story is celeritous but only beautiful when blood is shed—an amputation scene being the highlight here—while the line-by-line prose takes a backseat to Potemkin world building ... In simply amplifying the lurid stories which already emanate like the scent of blood in the popular consciousness, Moreno-Garcia imbues her monsters with familiarity and gives us ghouls we already know exist.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
PositivePasteReputations is not quite a repudiation of the media’s power to suck the marrow from others. But by bringing Mallarino to a savage collision with the moment that afforded the cartoonist his prominence, Vásquez warns of the fragility inherent in such power ... A particularly exquisite device is the use of a caricaturist’s eyes, as Vásquez reduces people to features and details, paradoxically flattening them and giving them irrevocable shape ... The effect is something like a political cartoon.
PositivePasteMendelsohn is an expert juggler of characters, and even with a cast list this long, she carefully balances the Zanes and near-Zanes. The interplay between them feels natural and is perhaps the strongest technical quality of the book. Regardless of what one thinks about Mendelsohn’s purple prose, her ability to foster what feels like genuine interactions between her characters keeps the Zanes—and the novel—from becoming just another Tragedy in the Ivory Tower.