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Review-a-Day

Friday, July 30th


 

Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do about It by Peter G. Peterson

A review by Farhad Manjoo

Shortly before George W. Bush was sworn into office, an aide to the incoming president called up Peter G. Peterson, a former secretary of commerce under Richard Nixon, to chat about the nation's finances. "You people have a God-sent opportunity," Peterson, one of the Republican Party's fiercest deficit hawks, told the Bush official. At the time, the federal government was awash in cash; after eight years of Bill Clinton's stewardship, the 10-year budget surplus stood at $5.6 trillion, and Bush's legislative challenge looked similar to the problem faced by Richard Pryor's character in Brewster's Millions -- finding ways to spend all that coin.

Despite the happy short-term outlook, though, Peterson reminded the Bush aide that the United States faced a frightening long-term balance sheet. This is the same doomsday scenario you've heard a thousand times before, and by now you're probably weary of it: As more than 70 million baby boomers begin retiring later in the decade, the ...



The Flying Troutmans Signed 1st Edition by Miriam Toews

Happy Trials

A review by Danielle Marshall

Miriam Toews, winner of Canada's 2004 Governor General's Award for A Complicated Kindness, has just released her latest novel, The Flying Troutmans. It is the story of Hattie, a young woman who returns from Paris to Winnipeg to take care of her niece and nephew after her sister Min is admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Reminiscent of the movie Little Miss Sunshine, the novel evolves into a road-trip tale, as Hattie decides to take the children on a quest to track down their long-lost father and finds herself, playing guardian and in way over her head.

Days after being dumped by her...



Song of Wrath: The Peloponnesian War Begins by J. E. Lendon

The Wrath of Symbols

A review by James Carman

"The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Sparta, made war inevitable," wrote Thucydides in his fifth-century BC chronicle of the Peloponnesian War. Most scholars have accepted his explanation for the causes of the three-decade struggle that reshaped the Greek world. Thucydides' writings greatly influenced the thinking of 17th-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes about how and why great powers come into conflict. Together, writes University of Virginia historian J. E. Lendon, Thucydides and Hobbes are "the progenitors of the theoretical realism that...



My Life by Bill Clinton

The Bill Clinton Show

A review by Ronald Steel

Bill Clinton used to tell us that he wanted to feel our pain, even though he often gave us one. In this characteristically garrulous volume of almost one thousand pages, he tells us all about his own pain. We learn how his traumatic childhood experiences led him to be a "secret-keeper" whose skill at living "parallel lives" helped him to cope when the "old demons of self-doubt and impending destruction reared their ugly heads again." We are told also that he lived a private life of self-doubt and was harrowed by feelings of inadequacy even while he conveyed an impression of vigorous self...



A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS by Jennet Conant

Julia Child, Secret Agent?

A review by Nancy Rommelmann

It is 1954, and as he has for the past dozen years, Paul Child is designing war rooms for the Foreign Service, often in exotic locales, currently in Bonn, a German city of industrial complexes and teeming with American soldiers behaving badly.

"Woe -- how did we get here?" his wife, Julia, whom Paul met in 1943 when they were both members of the Office of Strategic Services stationed in Ceylon, scribbles in her diary. She is not happy to have left Paris and Marseilles and her blossoming career as a cooking teacher. But the Childs go where the government tells them to, including, for Paul...



Morning Haiku by Sonia Sanchez

Poems of Awakening

A review by Abby Travis

Sonia Sanchez's latest book resonates as boldly as a jazz ensemble; clear and poignant, it is intransigent in her subject matter. Her impassioned reflections come in the loose form of the American haiku, in groups of two to twenty-one haiku at a time. Primarily ekphrastic, her poems react to and commend the work and activism of African American singers, artists, authors, sculptors, painters, celebrities, and political and social activists, to whom many of the poems are dedicated. Sanchez presents a deeply personal, affected history and promulgation of her race, yet does so in each poem with a ...



The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved by Judith Freeman

The Knight of Sunset Boulevard

A review by Pico Iyer

The classic British public school prepares its inmates expertly for taking on (or over) the world, and not at all for that half of the world known as the opposite sex. Its charges are trained, in effect, to see women as a foreign country (most of the old boarding schools are still all-male), and even as they are taught just how to give or take orders, and how to bring their curious blend of stoicism and fellowship to Afghanistan or Arabia, they receive no instruction in what to do with that alien force that awaits them every night at home. Much of twentieth-century English literature comes...



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