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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Columnists > About Books

May 22, 2020

May 22, 2020

By George Ernsberger - columnist

DARK MIRROR: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State by Barton Gellman (Penguin). There is a portrait of Snowden, here, at no great length but thoughtful and in depth enough to confirm one's earlier impression: self-important and irritating, eccentric, certainly, but smart and serious, and not wrong. There is also a breathtakingly vivid description of the size and scope of the matter he captured and exposed—more carefully and selectively than is generally acknowledged, but enough to create even deeper misgivings both about his motives and also—lest we be distracted by judging him—also about the not quite comprehensible breadth and depth of terrifyingly, heart-stoppingly intimate stuff there is on file about us all (not just spies—far from it). Gellman is a serious writer and citizen, whether you think Snowden is or not.
FIVE DAYS: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore with Erica L. Green (New World).
Baltimore, is the city—one of the most interesting and even beautiful in America, on a careful visit; beautiful harbor and a great aquarium, lovely residential neighborhoods (row houses and all that). And for many decades something like a hellhole for a majority of its people. A great turning point occurred in the spring of 2015 with the death in a police van of a pitiable life-long loser who's now forever famous: Freddie Gray. This deeply researched, carefully and clearly structured book by a native and lover of that city tells the city's, and a good deal of our nation's, story in the points of view of a number of its natives from several of its social strata (including the very top). It all makes for a confounding, enlightening, enriching read.
RESISTANCE: A Songwriter's Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos (Atria). And another: if you don't know Tori Amos's beautiful voice and music, I guess you won't be attracted to this always lovely, both angry and inspiring, very Tori Amos memoir. For a person who thinks this much, she's very good company. The book is structured around songs and their writing, and so full of lyrics.
THE NEMESIS MANIFESTO by Eric von Lustbader (Tom Doherty/Forge). So, finally, how about some fun? Not dumb fun—fiendishly clever, even more complex than you notice at first. It's revealed in carefully calibrated steps, scornful of irony where the largest matters of power are concerned, but rife with irony's bitterest bites as it proceeds. This is an international-evil-scheming thriller by a proven master, and promised as the first of a series, clearly to be centered on the sensational operative in this one—promised first by the advertising, but more irresistibly by the twisted ending of this book.

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