Would you be surprised to hear that a surging tide of books about politics is about to engulf us?
Later this month we’ll get a chance to peruse War and Decision, by Douglas Feith (HarperCollins, March 25). Mr. Feith, a neocon promoter of the Iraq War, was famously identified by Gen. Tommy Franks as “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet.” It’s unlikely that Mr. Feith will have reached the same conclusions about Iraq as Peter Galbraith, whose Unintended Consequences (Simon & Schuster, June 17) surveys the disastrous American intervention. Can a book that probes an open wound be “eagerly awaited”? This one is: Standard Operating Procedure, by Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch and filmmaker Errol Morris (the Penguin Press, May 15), takes a long close look at Abu Ghraib.
On the home front, the emphasis is on postmortem: Veteran reporter Eric Lichtblau examines one facet of the Bush legacy in Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice (Pantheon, April 1); Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas? (2004), pans across the whole desolate landscape in The Wrecking Crew: Conservative Rule in Theory and Practice (Metropolitan, Aug. 5). For an utterly unbiased account, see Arianna Huffington’s Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution and Made Us All Less Safe (Knopf, April 29).
If you’re looking for more inside skinny on our lame-duck president (complete with juicy, unattributed quotations), you’ll have to wait until July, when Simon & Schuster will publish the fourth and presumably final volume—as yet untitled—of the protean Bob Woodward’s evolving evaluation of the Decider in Chief.
Need a dose of inspiration to counteract the bleak reality of 2000-2008? Try Moyers on Democracy, by Bill Moyers (Broadway, May 6) or Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi (Doubleday, July 29).
Or maybe what we really need is a good laugh. The very clever Jim Holt obliges with Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes (Norton, 7/14), which promises to be both erudite and plain old funny.
FANS OF THE short story, rejoice! The season is packed with collections from masters of the art: Tobias Wolff’s Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories (Knopf, March 25); Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf, April 1); Cynthia Ozick’s Dictation: A Quartet (Houghton Mifflin, April 16); and—if you can wait until the end of the summer for a little of that Brokeback Mountain magic—Annie Proulx’s Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 (Scribner, Sept. 9).
Lavish advance praise has been heaped on The Hakawati, by Lebanese painter and author Rabih Alameddine (Knopf, April 22); one of the ecstatic blurbists (“pure genius”) is Aleksandar Hemon, whose own novel, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead, May 1), has also been blessed with excellent early reviews. Much hyped and destined to disappoint, Keith Gessen’s debut, All the Sad Young Literary Men (Viking, April 10), is about three struggling writers, a topic the founder of n+1 should know inside out. And guess what? One of the writers is named Keith!
Another debut: Isabel Fonseca, second wife of Martin Amis, has written Attachment (Knopf, April 29), a novel about a woman whose cozy life is disrupted by a racy love letter addressed to her husband. Meanwhile, Mr. Amis himself has collected his writings—essays and stories, too—about militant Islam in The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom (Knopf, April 1). (The verdict in Britain: “wilfully ignorant … disturbingly bigoted.”)
Two memoirs from opposite ends of the entertainment industry: The ultimate establishment insider, Barbara Walters, gives us Audition: A Memoir (Knopf, May 6); and Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan’s hippie girlfriend, the one leaning into him on the album cover, gives us A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties (Random House, May 13).
While we’re remembering the 60’s, brace yourself for a return visit with another unpopular president mired in an unpopular war: Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, by Rick Perlstein (Scribner, May 13). Scroll back past L.B.J., and here’s J.F.K.’s right-hand man, Ted Sorensen, with his White House memoir, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (HarperCollins, May 6).
CAN WE RELAX now? Here are four titles about the ways in which we amuse ourselves, all of them appropriately entertaining: Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, by Chris Ayres (Atlantic Monthly Press, sometime in July); Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach (Norton, April 7); Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, by Kingsley Amis (Bloomsbury, May 13); and How Fiction Works, by the brilliant James Wood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 22).
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