Drift (Crown, $25) describes how the American way of war has changed, shifting from traditional reluctance to all-too-easy engagement. Rachel Maddow traces the overexpansion in recent decades of presidential power to send U.S. forces into combat, the weakening of congressional constraints, and the lessening of public attention. In making her case, she draws on an impressive amount of research but keeps her book an entertaining read, displaying a lively, puckish writing style laced with witty asides and numerous believe-it-ornot anecdotes.
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Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - March 27th, 2012
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Published: Crown - March 5th, 2013
Colin Dickey’s Afterlives of the Saints (Unbridled, $24.95) is an intelligent, engaging introduction to the strangest of Catholic saints. From the most extreme ascetics, like Saint Simeon—said to have lived on a pillar for almost forty years—to the way one becomes the patron saint of barbeques (hint: it involves a fire, a martyr, and a grill), Dickey’s interwoven essays examine the origin stories of a handful of saints and how their myths have evolved over the centuries. Dickey is deliciously witty and insightful, and his cast is not only sacred but infinitely entertaining.
David Bezmozgis is a maestro of dislocation, a fascinated observer of the in-between. Here he centers on the Krasnansky family, a handful of the many Russian Jews stranded in 1970s Italy, waiting Beckett-like for visas and dreaming of The Free World (Picador, $15). Bezmozgis blends the Krasnanskys’ surreal limbo in Rome with the memories of the lives they left behind. By circling through each family member’s private reveries, we glimpse Soviet history across generations—a view that is both panoramic and incredibly intimate. From hardship in tsarist Russia to the heady idealism of the 1930s to the absurd Orwellian comedy of love affairs in Communist Latvia, Bezmozgis writes with nuance, humor, and a light, graceful touch. Every section feels immediate.