RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"The more arresting news is that Open is one of the most passionately anti-sports books ever written by a superstar athlete — bracingly devoid of triumphalist homily and star-spangled gratitude ... At times in Open [Agassi] seems bent on reprising the full catalog — wins and losses in Houston, Toronto and other tournament stops not even die-hard fans will care to visit ... Equally hard-won self-knowledge irradiates almost every page of Open ... The result is not just a first-rate sports memoir but a genuine bildungsroman, darkly funny yet also anguished and soulful. It confirms what Agassi’s admirers sensed from the outset, that this showboat, with his garish costumes and presumed fatuity, was not clamoring for attention but rather conducting a struggle to wrest some semblance of selfhood from the sport that threatened to devour him.\
MixedThe AtlanticThe result is a very readable distillation of a long and fruitful life ... But Schlesinger wasn’t just a famous man. First and foremost he was a serious historian. And that, oddly, is the subject on which Aldous has the least to say. He summarizes the oeuvre and provides a scorecard of contemporary reviews. But he skims the surface of the Faustian bargain Schlesinger made with power and goes light, too, on his ideas and arguments. Often Aldous seems less stimulated than embarrassed by his subject.
RaveThe AtlanticAll of this, so plainly in view but so strangely ignored, makes MacLean’s vibrant intellectual history of the radical right especially relevant. Her book includes familiar villains—principally the Koch brothers—and devotes many pages to think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, whose ideological programs are hardly a secret. But what sets Democracy in Chains apart is that it begins in the South, and emphasizes a genuinely original and very influential political thinker, the economist James M. Buchanan. He is not so well remembered today as his fellow Nobel laureates Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Yet as MacLean convincingly shows, his effect on our politics is at least as great, in part because of the evangelical fervor he brought to spreading his ideas ... MacLean’s undisguised loathing of him and others she writes about will offend some readers. But that same intensity of feeling has inspired her to untangle important threads in American history—and to make us see how much of that history begins, and still lives, in the South.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewThe family romance is as old as the English-language novel itself — indeed is ontologically inseparable from it. But the family as microcosm or micro-history has become Franzen’s particular subject, as it is no one else’s today … Franzen grasps that the central paradox of modern American liberalism inheres not in its doctrines but in the unstated presumptions that govern its daily habits. Liberals, no less than conservatives — and for that matter revolutionaries and reactionaries; in other words, all of us — believe some modes of existence are superior to others. But only the liberal, committed to a vision of harmonious communal pluralism, is unsettled by this truth … Like all great novels, Freedom does not just tell an engrossing story. It illuminates, through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew.
PositiveThe AtlanticTo Oppenheimer’s credit, his own politics, which seem somewhere on the left, don’t intrude on the absorbing stories he tells ... While in principle his subjects offer a model of political engagement, the character of the apostates changes over the course of his narrative, which spans nearly a century. Put most simply, they become less serious, reflecting a broader decline in America’s ideological life.