Author: John Greenville (John Greenville)

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Books in Brief: November 2022
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Books in Brief: November 2022

Short reviews of Free: A Child and a History at the End of History, by Lea Ypi, and The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free-Market Era, by Gary Gerstle.

Books in Brief: January 2022
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Books in Brief: January 2022

Should We Stay or Should We Go: A Novel, by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins; 288 pp., $26.99). Who but the clinically insane would complain about the extended life expectancies in the Western world? We now expect modern science will teleport us to an earthly utopia, and the more time we spend there, the better. The global economy...

Books in Brief: December 2021
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Books in Brief: December 2021

Enemies Among Us: The Relocation, Internment, and Repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans During the Second World War, by John E. Schmitz (University of Nebraska Press; 430 pp., $65.00). How can we possibly avoid history’s repetition when we don’t learn anything from it in the first place? For 50 years after World War II,...

What We Are Reading: December 2021
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What We Are Reading: December 2021

Milk cartons carry expiration dates. But, for obvious reasons, they don’t need them. History books don’t carry expiration dates. But, for less obvious reasons, they do need them. History books expire when archival discoveries supplant earlier narratives or when new interpretive theories emerge. Lucky for historical posterity, decades more will have to pass before Matt...

Books in Brief: November 2021
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Books in Brief: November 2021

Klara and the Sun: A Novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf; 320 pp., $28.00). A conservative disposition imposes costs but limits downside surprises. If you always expect rain, you have to lug your umbrella around wherever you go. But you never get wet. Likewise, if you see life through a Menckenian lens, worstcase scenarios sometimes play...

What We Are Reading: October 2021
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What We Are Reading: October 2021

Although H. L. Mencken could discern “no plot whatever” in Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, he still praised the novel as “a social document of a high order.” The 1922 classic mordantly sketches a bygone America and the paladins who made it run. Even today, the title character’s surname still mocks guileless Americans who conform unthinkingly to...

Books in Brief: Homeland Elegies
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Books in Brief: Homeland Elegies

Homeland Elegies: A Novel, by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown & Co.; 368 pp., $28.00). Mark Twain wrote in his 1897 travel book, Following the Equator: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” That saying came in handy as I read this book, described on its jacket as...

What We Are Reading: Ages of Discord
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What We Are Reading: Ages of Discord

“After the quiet 1950s…incidents of political violence again became more frequent and now we may be in the middle of another wave of sociopolitical instability.” Thus five years ago wrote Peter Turchin, a University of Connecticut professor specializing in “historical social science,” a.k.a. Cliodynamics. After 2020’s violent nationwide political protests and the pandemic’s destruction of...

What We Are Reading: August 2021
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What We Are Reading: August 2021

“After the quiet 1950s…incidents of political violence again became more frequent and now we may be in the middle of another wave of sociopolitical instability.” Thus five years ago wrote Peter Turchin, a University of Connecticut professor specializing in “historical social science,” a.k.a. Cliodynamics. After 2020’s violent nationwide political protests and the pandemic’s destruction of...

Books in Brief: Identity Capitalists
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Books in Brief: Identity Capitalists

Identity Capitalists: The Powerful Insiders Who Exploit Diversity to Maintain Inequality, by Nancy Leong (Stanford University Press; 240 pp., $28.00). Nancy Leong recounts her chagrin at a friend’s wedding to start her jaundiced polemic, Identity Capitalists. The tipsy bride, gushing with thanks for Leong’s attendance, hugged her before joking indelicately, “I mean if you hadn’t been...

Books in Brief: June 2021
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Books in Brief: June 2021

Identity Capitalists: The Powerful Insiders Who Exploit Diversity to Maintain Inequality, by Nancy Leong (Stanford University Press; 240 pp., $28.00). Nancy Leong recounts her chagrin at a friend’s wedding to start her jaundiced polemic, Identity Capitalists. The tipsy bride, gushing with thanks for Leong’s attendance, hugged her before joking indelicately, “I mean if you hadn’t...

Books in Brief: The Death of the Artist
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Books in Brief: The Death of the Artist

The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech, by William Deresiewicz (Henry Holt; 368 pp., $27.99).  Members of a book club at my highly selective undergraduate business school were stung by William Deresiewicz’s portrait of careerist, grade-grubbing college students in his scathing 2015 book, Excellent...

What the Editors are Reading: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
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What the Editors are Reading: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Someone’s head must have rolled at the Aspen Institute when Anand Giridharadas’ book came out. Giridharadas didn’t miss a rung as he climbed the American establishment’s social ladder: born in Shaker Heights, schooled at Sidwell Friends, the University of Michigan, and Harvard, employed at McKinsey, the International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times, and mic’d up...

What the Editors Are Reading: March 2021
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What the Editors Are Reading: March 2021

Someone’s head must have rolled at the Aspen Institute when Anand Giridharadas’ book came out. Giridharadas didn’t miss a rung as he climbed the American establishment’s social ladder: born in Shaker Heights, schooled at Sidwell Friends, the University of Michigan, and Harvard, employed at McKinsey, the International Herald Tribune, and The New York Times, and...

What the Editors Are Reading: Latin Alive
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What the Editors Are Reading: Latin Alive

In 1989, Japanese businessman Minoru Isutani purchased Pebble Beach’s famous golf course for $850 million, and Mitsubishi Estate Company paid $846 million for 51 percent of New York’s Rockefeller Center. The United States cowered from the kamikaze attack of Japanese capital on American business. American students swamped Japanese language programs, as the Land of the Rising...

What the Editors Are Reading: February 2021
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What the Editors Are Reading: February 2021

In 1989, Japanese businessman Minoru Isutani purchased Pebble Beach’s famous golf course for $850 million, and Mitsubishi Estate Company paid $846 million for 51 percent of New York’s Rockefeller Center. The United States cowered from the kamikaze attack of Japanese capital on American business. American students swamped Japanese language programs, as the Land of the Rising...

A Book to Hoard Before It Gets Cancelled
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A Book to Hoard Before It Gets Cancelled

First the crazies tore down statues they deemed offensive. Next they vandalized churches. Then they demanded trigger warnings on classic movies like Gone with the Wind and Blazing Saddles. If these monsters ever discover libraries, books will be next. Let me suggest you hoard copies of William McNeill’s The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963) before...

Books in Brief: Cynical Theories
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Books in Brief: Cynical Theories

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (Pitchstone Publishing; 352 pp., $27.95). To understand wokeness, I often ask students to explain why they add the word “social” to “justice.” They have yet to provide a satisfactory answer. My subsequent requests for clarification...

Books in Brief: December 2020
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Books in Brief: December 2020

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (Pitchstone Publishing; 352 pp., $27.95). To understand wokeness, I often ask students to explain why they add the word “social” to “justice.” They have yet to provide a satisfactory answer. My subsequent requests for clarification...

What I Learned From the Left
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What I Learned From the Left

In The Politics of Prudence, Russell Kirk dismissed the notion of conservatism grounding itself in a single foundational text. Since conservatism is “neither a religion nor an ideology,” Kirk concluded it “possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata.” Sure, Chronicles readers can recite the political dicta of Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and John Adams. We confront life’s complexity...

Books in Brief: November 2020
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Books in Brief: November 2020

Promised Land: How the Rise of the Middle Class Transformed America , 1929-1968, by David Stebenne (Scribner; 336 pp., $28.00). Dear David: I used the title of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as my grading rubric for your submission on the 20th-century American middle class. Your work recaps the period’s economic, social, cultural, and...

What the Editors Are Reading
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What the Editors Are Reading

The New York Times recently spoke ex cathedra on the American founding through its “1619 Project.” You probably learned in grade school a cartoonish story about white guys in powdered wigs declaring America’s independence in 1776. The Sulzberger family’s College of Cardinals have declared the nation’s birth year was actually 1619, when the first hapless African slaves landed on...

What the Editors Are Reading
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What the Editors Are Reading

Everyone to Bernie Sanders’ right gasped in 1994 when radical British historian Eric Hobsbawm argued that Communist regimes who murdered millions “would still have been worth backing” had there been a “chance of a new world being born in great suffering.” The diabolically deranged never connect maniacal theory to deadly results. We can’t psychoanalyze Hobsbawm, who...