BAG MAN: THE WILD CRIMES, AUDACIOUS COVERUP, AND SPECTACULAR DOWNFALL OF A BRAZEN CROOK IN THE WHITE HOUSE by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz (Crown). Spiro Agnew really was just brass, through and …
BAG MAN: THE WILD CRIMES, AUDACIOUS COVERUP, AND SPECTACULAR DOWNFALL OF A BRAZEN CROOK IN THE WHITE HOUSE by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz (Crown). Spiro Agnew really was just brass, through and through; startling to be reminded how simply true that is. But this big book (already a bestseller) is about more than just that; it's also a clear and vivid summary account of a tumultuous passage in our history—an era as scary and enraging as our own, hard as that must be to believe for those younger than your faithful columnist (most of humanity). It opens at the unmistakable turning point of the Vietnam War, the Tet offensive—one of the most shocking chapters in America's story. This great nation was not just losing a battle, but a war, and its sense of itself as the all but flawless and also most indomitable nation ever on Earth. It really is part of this book's story; it brought Richard Nixon to the White House by driving Lyndon Johnson out, and Nixon brought this charmer with him, to pummel the rest of our idealism out of us. I emphasize that as a way of representing this terrific history's breadth and depth; I leave it to the book's talky title and all to suggest its energy and narrative drive. There isn't a word there that exaggerates the facts clearly narrated within the book; it only misrepresents, just slightly, its seriousness of purpose, in the service of representing it, honestly, as fun to read.
LITTLE WISHES by Michelle Adams (Morrow). Not a small book, in spite of the title, but light and lovely, a story of love lost and recaptured, and spanning fifty years. Beautifully written—not literary, entertainment fiction, but not a “romance” in the category sense; clear and uninsistent, graceful, seductive, and convincing.
REST AND BE THANKFUl by Emma Glass (Bloomsbury). A small novel, also beautifully, but this one also brilliantly, written, in a decidedly literary sense. It is about (and happens to be by) a nurse. The “happens to be” is meant to claim her for literature, too, and to make a reader here understand that. And perhaps also to say to her: we like knowing nurses more than ever, now, so, lovely, but we and the language needed you before, and will again when this is over.
THE NIGHT OF THE FIRE by Kjell Eriksson (Minotaur). Nordic noir, so, patient in development but engrossing, deeply characterized, not explicitly gory but violent, both shocking and enlightening—interesting to find that racism in Norway looks a lot like ours, here. It's a new novel by this veteran writer who hadn't published one in this series in some years, featuring the (now retired) police inspector Ann Lindell.
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