PositiveThe New York Review of Books... engrossing ... Wulf, who has a novelistic eye for the telling detail, provides a riveting account of how raptures gave way to ruptures ... Wulf makes excellent use of the vast correspondence of her principals.
David Graeber and David Wengrow
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksThe Dawn of Everything, chockablock with archaeological and ethnographic minutiae, is an oddly gripping read. Graeber, who did his fieldwork in Madagascar, was well known for his caustic wit and energetic prose, and Wengrow, too, has established himself not only as an accomplished archaeologist working in the Middle East but as a gifted and lively writer. A volume of macrohistory—even of anti-macrohistory—needs to land its points with some regularity, and Graeber and Wengrow aren’t averse to repeating themselves. But for the most part they convey a sense of stakes and even suspense. This is prose it’s easy to surrender to ... But should we surrender to its arguments? One question is how persuasive we find the book’s intellectual history, which mainly unspools from the early Enlightenment to the macrohistorians of today and tells of how consequential truths about alternate social arrangements got hidden from view. Another is how persuasive we find the book’s prehistory, in particular its parade of large-scale Neolithic communities that, Graeber and Wengrow suspect, were self-governing and nondominating. On both time scales, The Dawn of Everything is gleefully provocative ... Whatever its empirical shortcomings, the book must be counted an imaginative success.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewMaggie Nelson, in taking on this most American of topics in On Freedom, is always alert to the conceptual primacy of constraint, even as she allows herself no little freedom of her own ... Readers of her previous work will anticipate the engagingly idiosyncratic way in which she draws on all of her lives: as poet, theorist, critic, mother, spouse ... She pays careful attention to those with whom she disagrees, judiciously accepting some of their points while firmly rejecting others ... With patience and equipoise, she helps us parse those specificities ... Nelson displays the same eloquent equipoise when she ventures into recent debates about the ethics and politics of sex ... In discussion after discussion, Nelson shows the same alertness to context, intellectual modesty and the conviction that ethical goodness is never all on one side. She doesn’t aim to provide a positive account of the meaning of freedom. But if we understand freedom, above all, through our opposition to bondage, we can learn a great deal, as her book shows, from carefully cataloging and challenging the many ways of being unfree.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...elegant and persuasive ... She has, in particular, a masterly command of the complex extended metaphor ... What distinguishes Wilkerson is her grasp of the power of individual narratives to illustrate such general ideas, allowing her to tell us what these abstract notions have meant in the lived experience of ordinary people ... The dexterity with which she combines larger historical descriptions with vignettes from particular lives, recounted with the skill of a veteran reporter, will be familiar to readers of The Warmth of Other Suns ... Caste will spur readers to think and to feel in equal measure. Its vivid stories about the mistreatment of Black Americans by government and law and in everyday social life — from the violence of the slave plantation to the terror of lynchings to the routines of discourtesy and worse that are still a common experience for so many — retain their ability to appall and unsettle, to prompt flashes of indignation and moments of sorrow. The result is a book that is at once beautifully written and painful to read.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksKing, a professor of international affairs and government at Georgetown, is a terrific writer and storyteller—and a disciplined one, too, who knows how to dip into the rabbit holes along his path without getting lost in them ... King’s book vividly conjures four brilliant disciples of \'Papa Franz.\'