New books from Jill Abramson, Kathleen Collins, and Hanif Abdurraqib offer fresh takes on today’s issues.
From Simon and Schuster.
Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts by Jill Abramson
In her former post as New York Times executive editor, Jill Abramson made history as the first woman to hold the title in the Times’s 160-year history. Fittingly: as a journalist and author, Abramson’s own work has often been concerned with issues of sex and gender, including her 1986 book, Where They Are Now, which describes the experiences of the 70 women in Harvard’s class of ‘74—Harvard is Abramson’s alma mater—and considers whether they went on to enjoy the same opportunities and success as their male classmates, and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, co-written with Jane Mayer in 1994. Now, in Merchants of Truth (Simon & Schuster), Abramson sets her eyes on an industry she knows well: the news media—specifically, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vice Media, and BuzzFeed. She examines how the companies regained their urgency and mission in the face of recent political upheavals and the increased presence of Facebook and Google, asking the end-all question of whether an informed press can stand its ground. (Amazon)
From Harper Collins.
Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary by Kathleen Collins
“To be this good and yet to be ignored is shameful, but her rediscovery is a great piece of luck for us,” says Zadie Smith of the late Kathleen Collins, whose literary work, like Lucia Berlin’s, went under-appreciated throughout her lifetime. In 2016, nearly 30 years after her death, Collins burst onto the literary scene with the posthumous publication of her story collection, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Now, a new collection of the author’s work—diary entries, screenplays, scripts, and fiction—published by Ecco and edited by Collins’s daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, displays the author’s unique, evocative style: “In the crucible of our family my sister burned like molten steel. Once I saw her arms outspread her legs hanging limp and useless wet saliva dripping from her tongue. I screamed they surrounded her lifted her onto the sheets where she convulsed for hours . . . ” begins the very first story in the collection, titled “Scapegoat Child.” The book sheds light on Collins, a pioneer black playwright, civil-rights activist, educator, and filmmaker—Collins’s film, Losing Ground, a portrayal of a black female intellectual, is one of the first features by a black woman in America—and includes her keen, thoughtful insights into marriage, motherhood, race, and the African-American experience. (Amazon)
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
At the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this past September, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweekeditor Joel Weber, “Some people go straight from denial to despair without pausing on the intermediate step of actually addressing and solving the problem.” He was, of course, referring to climate change, but author David Treuer strikes a similar note in his new book, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee (Riverhead)—a sweeping history of Native American life from the Wounded Knee massacre to the present—disputing the commonly held belief that the infamous 1890 massacre destroyed the Native American population and spirit. Treuer, whose mother is an Ojibwe Indian and who grew up on the reservation before leaving to attend Princeton, presents a more nuanced and hopeful vision of the past and future of Native Americans: “I cannot shake the belief that the ways in which we tell the story of our reality shapes that reality. . . . And I worry that if we tell the story of the past as a tragedy we consign ourselves to a tragic future,” Treuer writes, echoing Gore. “As much as our past was shaped by the whims and violence of an evolving America, America, in turn, has been shaped by us.” (Amazon)
The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision that Shook the World by Anthony McCarten
The Pope (Flatiron) follows Pope Benedict XVI’s largely unprecedented 2013 decision to resign (the last resignation was about 700 years ago) and the Church’s decision—in many ways equally shocking—to fill the post with Argentina’s moderate Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. For the first time since 1415, the world now had two living popes, notes author Anthony McCarten, the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour (The Pope, too, is soon to be a motion picture, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce). The book explores Benedict and Francis’s experiences growing up in war-torn Germany and Argentina, respectively, as well as the ongoing sexual abuse scandal rocking the Church, and provides a compelling look at life and politics in the Vatican today. (Amazon)
From Henry Holt.
The Empire and the Five Kings: America’s Abdication and the Fate of the World by Bernard-Henri Lévy
The acclaimed French philosopher is the author of several books including War, Evil, and the End of History (2004) and Public Enemies: Dueling Writers Take on Each Other and the World (2011), which he co-wrote with French author, filmmaker, and poet Michel Houellebecq. (Tangentially: Houellebecq’s novel Submission—describing a futuristic France where a Muslim party rules the country according to Islamic law—was published on January 7, 2015, the date of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris; on that same date, a cartoon of Houellebecq ominously appeared on the cover page of Charlie Hebdo with the caption “The Predictions of Wizard Houellebecq.”) In his new book, The Empire and the Five Kings (Henry Holt), Bernard-Henri Lévy turns his lens on America, looking at the U.S.’s withdrawal from world leadership and exploring the rising powers—Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and Sunni radical Islamism—who seek to fill the vacuum left behind. (Amazon)
Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen
In 2009, Dave Cullen’s book Columbine, 10 years in the making and detailing the 1999 school shooting, was published. Not even a decade later, and Parkland (Harper), an extension of an article on the Parkland school shooting which Cullen wrote for the October 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, is dedicated to the 17 people who were killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and to the March for Our Lives kids. The book is a result of nearly 10 months spent shadowing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students who gave birth to the Never Again movement. “They were relentless,” Cullen writes in the prologue to his book, “frequently racing around the country in opposite directions. That was their secret weapon: waging this battle on so many fronts with a host of different voices, perspectives, and talents—healing each other as they fought.” Cullen has also spent the last 19 years following two gay soldiers for a book about their lives, a project interrupted on Valentine’s Day of 2018 for the Vanity Fairarticle and, now, a book on the Parkland kids’ amazing achievements. (Amazon)
From University of Texas Press.
Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib
“This is the third book by Hanif Abdurraqib,” reads the cover of Go Ahead in the Rain(University of Texas Press). “It is a love letter to a group, a sound, and an era.” Go Ahead in the Rain is more than just an homage to A Tribe Called Quest, though; it’s more like a reckoning. The result is a critical examination of the group—their message and history—as well as a musical memoir of sorts, and an exploration of the lasting impact music can have on the soul. “In the beginning, from somewhere south of anywhere I come from, lips pressed the edge of a horn, and a horn was blown,” writes Abdurraqib in his opening chapter, “The Paths of Rhythm,” tracing musical influence to his roots: “In the beginning before the beginning, there were drums, and hymns, and a people carried here from another here, and a language stripped and a new one learned, with the songs to go with it.” (Amazon)
From David Zwirner Books.
David Zwirner: 25 Years with contributions by Richard Shiff, Robert Storr, and David Zwirner
Offering archival imagery from the New York City art gallery’s early days, through its expansion to the Chelsea and Upper East Side neighborhoods and eventually to London, David Zwirner—published on the gallery’s 25-year anniversary—chronicles its growth and development through the lens of the artists who have shaped it (Yayoi Kusama,Jeff Koons, and Lisa Yuskavage, to name only a few). The book features contributions from the art historian Richard Shiff, the renowned curator and academic Robert Storr,and founder David Zwirner himself, and offers insights into the gallery’s substantial growth, attributable to its long-term commitment to artists. The book is published by David Zwirner Books, a further testament to the gallery’s expansion; in 2014, Zwirner founded the stand-alone publishing house, which has since released catalogues, monographs, historical surveys, and books on various artists and their work. (Amazon) | (David Zwirner Books)