A dogged reporter and fluid writer offers a glimpse inside a seemingly impenetrable country, a "land of broken maps.”

READ REVIEW

THE NINE LIVES OF PAKISTAN

DISPATCHES FROM A PRECARIOUS STATE

Working back from when he was mysteriously expelled from Pakistan in 2013, journalist Walsh portrays the paroxysms that regularly grip this troubled country.

From 2004 to 2013, the author lived in Pakistan as a journalist for the Guardian and then the New York Times, and he witnessed numerous tumultuous changes within the country, which has been ruled by the military for a large part of its history since the Partition from India in 1947. Relations between the countries soured, and Pakistan has been mired in corruption and violence for decades—a situation at odds with its name, which means “Land of the Pure.” Pakistan was in the global spotlight during Benazir Bhutto's two terms as prime minister (1988-1990 and 1993-1996), but the nation’s "fairy tale" period devolved after lurid revelations of her family's freewheeling corruption, and she was assassinated in 2007. After 9/11, Pakistan was excoriated by the Bush administration for harboring Taliban refugees and jihadi terrorists, in particular Osama bin Laden. In search of the country's profound sense of contradiction ("the cruel, ugly and downright terrifying side of Pakistan”), Walsh diligently investigates the character of a variety of relevant individuals, including Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who, “fearing Hindu domination, sought to create a Muslim homeland”; a fundamentalist who directed a "Waco-style siege in the heart of sleepy Islamabad,” spouting jihadi slogans; Asma Jahangir, the “doyenne of Pakistan’s human rights movement” who met the ruling generals head-on; and businessman and liberal politician Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated for supporting a persecuted Christian woman’s cause. Walsh also digs intriguingly into the mystery of the insurgencies that persistently plague the province of Balochistan. In 2018, an ex-spy finally revealed to the author why he was actually expelled. Some readers may wish for an epilogue or afterword that brings the story up to the present, but overall, this is a well-written, journalistically sound report.

A dogged reporter and fluid writer offers a glimpse inside a seemingly impenetrable country, a "land of broken maps.”

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-24991-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more