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review 2017-07-04 19:46
A rallying cry towards unity, care, and humanism.
No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher, Penguin Books UK-Allen Lane, for providing me with an ARC e-copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have a long list of books to read and I am trying to organise it somehow, mostly in order of acquisition, but this book arrived just as I had finished reading another book and it stuck in my mind. It is a very current and momentous book, so it was for the best that I read it promptly.

I am familiar with the name of Naomi Klein and I have seen many of her books and read about her and her ideas, but this is the first book I have read by her (I have read some short articles but although I kept seeing books by her that sounded interesting, it was usually when I was doing research on an unrelated topic or at a time when I could not read them and this time I grabbed the opportunity).

The book builds on much of her previous work, particularly on the issue of brands and how they have come to dominate our lives (the subject of No Logo) and also how politics and politicians exploit any disasters and shocks to impose ever harsher neo-liberal economic policies (that she discusses in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) and applies it to the current situation, particularly to Trump’s election and his policies since.

I started highlighting text through the book, to the point that sometimes I would be doing something and listening to the text to speech version and would have to stop to highlight something. This happened very often and I realised Klein was saying many of the things I had been thinking and some that I had not thought of but I recognised and agreed with as I read them. Her reflections about Trump as a brand and his presidency as the latest feather to add to this brand made sense (I learned new things about him and was reminded of others that had long forgotten but helped to build up a clear picture). It was curious that she referred to his time in the Apprentice and his appearances in WWE (televised professional wrestling) as (in a certain way) training for what was to come. She noted that some of his behaviours during the campaign were very similar to those of the fighters in WWE. And lo and behold, a few hours after I had read that part of the book, Trump tweeted the doctored video of one of his appearances in the WWE putting the CNN logo instead of the head of Vince McMahon, whom he was pretending to punch. And if I had already thought that was a very convincing comparison when I read it, even more so now.

The book is well-written, easy to read (well, or not, depending on what your point of view and your political leanings are), and develops the thesis that although many are shocked by Trump’s rise to power (and Brexit), it was not a total surprise, and there are people, organisations, and even whole countries who have resisted the move towards materialism and brands where only things, money, and profits matter, and where fingers are pointed at sectors of the population (immigrants, asylum seekers, ethnic minorities, women, environmentalists…)  who become the scapegoats for a situation they are the victims of. Klein looks at many of these groups and populations and how they have resisted the situation and taken a stand but she also notes that something else is required. Resisting and saying no is important, and it does not matter how big or small we are, we can all do it, but we need to find something to aim for, something that can unite us and something we can fight together for.

She discusses in detail the importance of trying to find common ground, rather than working for small goals, and states that the way the political centre has tried to introduce minor changes will not suffice. As an example of what could be done she focuses on the meeting that took place in Canada, bringing many groups together (unions, environmentalists, indigenous people, women’s groups, groups working towards racial equality…) and that produced the Leap Manifesto, because they think a leap is required to truly change things. We must leap towards hope and dare to embrace a revolutionary way of changing the world.

She notices the rise of dystopian fiction (and films) and the ever growing popularity of some classics (Orwell’s 1984) that she observes are a warning (not necessarily a prediction) and says we need more utopias; we need to be able to think of a better future. And she writes (and as she quotes a big favourite of mine, Oscar Wilde, I could not resist sharing it):

Because, as Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891, “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.”

I read some of the comments on the book, and they are separated along ideological lines. I agree that perhaps she uses examples that might not be as simply black or white as she makes them sound, and I also agree (and thought the same as I read it), that perhaps the Leap Manifesto falls short of going as far as it should (as it offers and statement of good intentions but not much in the way of implementation) although it is an attempt at reaching an agreement and a compromise between very different groups, so it is not surprising that it is not all that radical. I must clarify that I read an ARC copy and therefore did not have access to what I have read are very extensive notes at the end of the final version of the book. Without the notes, it is not a very long book.

The book made me think of an essay we had to write, when I was studying American Literature at the University of Sussex, discussing what could have been done, or rather, what could be done in the present, to somehow repair the gap between whites and African Americans in the US that comes from the time of slavery and was discussed after the Civil War and the freeing of all slaves, a gap that has never been fully resolved (as we all know). At the time of the Reconstruction, the suggestion had been that each freed slave be given 40 acres of land (therefore redistributing the slave owners’ property) and a mule (if you’ve ever wondered why Spike Lee’s production company is called that and never checked, now you know) so they could build up a life for themselves. Of course, that did not happen (or only in few cases) but I remember that after talking to the professor I did write a somewhat utopic essay that he could not fault for its reach, although he could not see how any government would go down that route. (I’ve been looking for it but I think it must have been in one of the floppy disks that disintegrated, although I might have a paper copy. I’ll investigate).  It also made me think about how much emphasis on brands is made, even in the world of writing, and how a lot of the advice to sell anything (a physical product or anything else) is to create a brand and market yourself (rather than the product). As she notes, if you are swimming in the world of media, in whatever capacity, it is very difficult not to be swamped by the allure of branding and its fraught logic. This is something that I have been thinking more and more about recently, and something that I care for less and less. Yes, perhaps this book arrives at the right moment, at least for me, but hopefully for many others too.

As I said, I highlighted a lot of content, and of course, I cannot share it all. But I could not resist and had to share a few bits.

First, one that shows her wit (and that made me write: olé! as a comment)

The truth, which doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous, is that the Trump brand stands for wealth itself or, to put it more crassly, money. That’s why its aesthetics are Dynasty-meets-Louis XIV. It’s why Trump’s relationship to gold is the inverse of Superman’s relationship to kryptonite: Trump crumples when he is more than three feet away from something big and shiny.

This one I think will give you an idea of what the book is about, in her own words:

We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It’s not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, foul and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exalted him until he became the most powerful person in the world.  The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists. The same values that have been playing out in destroyed safety nets, exploding prison numbers, normalized rape culture, democracy-destroying trade deals, rising seas and privatized disaster response, and in a world of Green Zones and Red Zones.

And I love the way she ends the book (do not worry, it is not a spoiler):

 My deepest thanks are for patient little Toma, who missed his mom over these last months, but feels strongly that, “Donald Trump is too rude to be president.

This book is not for everybody and if you really like Trump and what he stands for, or do not care about climate change and other issues such as the rights of women, equality, diversity, the rights of indigenous people… I’d advise you not to read it. If you don’t, I’d recommend you check a sample of the writing and see if it speaks to you. I now know why she is so well-known and respected. A compelling writer, whatever one’s political views.

 

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review 2017-05-13 04:30
A piece of trash, like its subject
Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success - Ivanka Trump

No word. Horrible book. Wasted trees. 

 

For more details. Read Moonlight Reader's post. 

 

http://moonlightreader.booklikes.com/post/1562234/who-spends-their-days-white-knighting-ivanka-trump 

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review 2017-04-17 01:42
This is truly an important book to read
Trump and Me - Mark Singer

Much as Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump felt important, so too does this book.   Assholes felt a little more gleefully malicious in its humor: the argument, for example, about whether he was an asshole or an assclown.   Don't get me wrong: the author nailed Trump, and did so backing up his argument with facts and clear definitions of the two words.   But again, as much as he protested that he wanted to bring people together, well, it felt too happy to viciously mock Trump to be that kind of book.   (It was, in fact, a book I would consider for anyone who doesn't like Trump.   If they do, this book will only make them this the author is a hater and that he had a grudge against Trump and all those ways that Trump gaslights people into living in his own alternate reality full of alternative facts.)

 

This book feels a little more even handed.   Yes, the author is wary of - and weary of - Trump, and a little bit of cynicism  seeps through.   Yes, he does make fun of Trump.   Yes, he's disgusted by Trump's attitude towards women and minorities.   However, what Mark Singer has done is spend time with Trump and then researched Trump, and then written a book about Trump.   He's seen it firsthand, read it and believed all these things to be true based on his own experiences with Trump.   Trump would argue, and have you believe, that Mark Singer is out to make him look bad.   Instead, it is Trump that makes himself look bad.   Mark Singer is a believer in truth, and yes, of skewering the rich and powerful who are full of themselves.   What I mean is: he'd be far less successful in his skewering of Trump had The Donald not given him so much rich material to work with.    I can't help but being reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit in which Alex Baldwin's Trump pouts that the media is making him look bad.   (He's in a debate with Kate McKinnon's Clinton.)   When the moderator asks him how they're doing this, he retorts that it's by taking the things he does and says and putting them on TV and in the newspapers.   Singer does just this: he simply reports what is.   His bias is clear, and he does poke at Trump throughout the book.   He doesn't seem to take the same glee that James does in adding to the walking dumpster fire that is Trump, however.  

 

And I don't want you to get me wrong: I did like Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump very much.  I was feeling more vicious then myself, my pain at Trump's presidency too raw to do anything but snicker at James' clever barbs.   I wasn't in the mood this time, though, and so this book just hit the spot.   Much like Assholes, this book is small, and not just in page size.   It's more of a hardcover in a mass market size, which means it's not only slim, it's extremely short on word count.   (Possibly one of the things that keeps them from being malicious.   Assholes, as I remember, was slightly longer.)  I wanted facts.  I wanted to read something that I knew Trump disapproved of, because I have not only free speech, but the freedom to read what I want.   (With some exceptions in both case: as Trump is finding out, free speech doesn't mean the right to incite violence at, say, rallies.  In much the same way, the written word shouldn't incite violence or place people in danger.)   It was a balm, a reminder of how many people are out there, who put themselves in danger by speaking out against Trump.   (Singer recounts one woman reporter who calls him a thousandaire, and in response Trump sent back one of her columns, having scrawled Face of a Dog across her photograph.   Another estimated his worth  - and it did not please Trump that he felt lowballed by this guess.   He sued the author of that book.)

 

It was a quick read, well written, plainly spoken, and all the more starkly honest in the way that it exposed Trump's lies.   I wouldn't so much call it a pleasant read as one necessary for me: I was feeling a little depressed, and I wanted to read something of great import.   This fit that bill.   And it has motivated me to be more active, reading, instead of playing games and feeling crappy about not doing much today.  I did my makeup, cut my nails, and painted them.  (I have Mystique themed nail polish by my favorite person who does fandom and Jewish related polishes.   I love FedoraHarp so much, and after half of this book and her nail polish, I was feeling far, far more chipper!)

 

This is the good thing I did for myself today: I read this book.  I fought against Trump by becoming more knowledgeable about how works, and how he thinks, and I fought against him by not allowing him to gaslight me because I know now.   This was a must read - for me.   I would never suggest that anyone who is against Trump must read any books about him.   For me, knowledge is one of my main ways to fight against something sometimes, and in this case, it's one of the ways that I've chosen to fight his brand of fascism.   I needed to do something about it today and I did.   Yay me!  (Partly for all those reasons, partly for recognizing what I needed and giving myself what I needed to feel better about myself.  It's not something I'm normally good at.)

 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some Aquaman and the first in Danielewski's The Familiars series.  I think I'm gonna indulge me some in that.

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review 2017-03-27 19:51
The results of the goals of the left are analyzed, and a plan for the right to accomplish their own goals is laid out.
Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America - David Horowitz

This is a quick read. Horowitz paints a devastating, but accurate picture of the progressive agenda and the ultimate goal of the Democrats who are now led by extreme leftists who disavow capitalism, like Obama, Sanders, Warren and Clinton, by race baiters like Waters and Cummings, and I believe by corrupt talking heads like Maddow, Sharpton, and Brzezinski. He details the destructive results of their policies and condemns the tools that they use to acquire their power, in any way they can. 

He presents not only the agenda he has designed for the Republicans during the Trump Administration, to take back America and return it to its rightful place of respect in the world, but he lays out the corrupt agenda of the liberals, including their corrupt behavior. He clearly defines the criminality of Hillary Clinton, so long ignored by the Justice Department and what has become a corrupt media that is inspired by their own opinions rather than by what is news and, obviously, the truth. He alludes to the existence of collusion between the Executive branch of Obama, and the Departments of Justice and the IRS. Horowitz has very accurately identified all of the current problems facing the newly elected President who has been called many heinous names, even as he is accused of being the name caller.

He places a great deal of blame for the Democrats’ move to the extreme left on the policies and philosophy of Saul Alinsky, a community organizer like Barack Obama, who wrote a book called “Rules for Radicals”, and George Soros, a wealthy civil activist who has sought, for years, to influence American politics to move  to the extreme left using non-profit organizations like his moveon.org. Former President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton view those men as their mentors. Alinsky’s polices encourage the demonizing of anyone that disagrees with their agenda, and it seems to be working for the progressives as evidenced by their angry protests and rallies against the President and his followers.  

He accurately identifies the problems of the Republican Party and their lack of a common purpose, a common stand on issues which is the lifeline and lifeblood of the Democrats. They are unified, right or wrong because they believe that the ends justify any means, while the Republicans do not. They will follow their platform like lemmings and not break ranks. Hillary Clinton said that when “they go low, we go high”, but that is an oxymoron in her playbook and in the policies of her followers who march in lockstep with her.

Even when the GOP controls all of the branches of government they cannot seem to come together, as the donkeys can, and remain loyal to their party, they cannot, even though they know that the Progressives want to place the power in their own hands so they can rule and will do anything they can to disrupt the current government and are able to disrupt it in their weakness because they remain united as the Republicans divide into disparate groups fighting each other instead of promoting the policies they ran on and promoting the ultimate goal of greater justice and freedom for all Americans as they make America great again. They are, once again, snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory and helping the Progressives accomplish their goal of regaining power and continuing to bring America to its knees, in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Is there any way to defeat the far left that lies while they are actually lying themselves, cheats while they cheat openly, name call while accusing others of name calling, calling others sexist while covering up sexual deviants within their own ranks, screaming racism as they only give lip service to the needs of those less fortunate, as they feather their own nests, as they deny the history of their own party which was and still is, steeped in racism and sexism?

Horowitz suggests that the “deplorable right” examine and concentrate on, the big picture and go fearlessly into the fray to combat the goals of the hypocritical left, but he has not presented any viable way for them to do it. History has proven that they will seek their own level, and that level has not been a very high bar in the past. They are too conciliatory and afraid of ramifications, afraid of losing their jobs, and so they fail in the performance of their duties. Let’s hope that they will suddenly decide not to go “gently into that good night”, to coin a phrase, for it will surely be the death knell of the party.

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review 2017-03-12 00:22
Important, and still timely
Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump - James Aaron Tecumseh Sinclair

The ending of this book tells why this author wrote this book.  I found it one of the less compelling parts of this books, which is one reason I'm not going to spoil this book.   The other is that I found this book important and still timely, and so I'm going to hope that someone might read this to find out why the author wrote this book. 

 

I've agreed with, and disagreed with, the author, but I think he'd approve.   He doesn't want everyone to agree, even with him, but rather to listen to what they say, agree with what they can, and then present the opposition reasonably.   My disagreement with the author was a minor one, about whether or not people vote for Trump and not be racist.   I don't believe this is possible, and the brief mention in this book doesn't make it clear, although it seemed to indicate that the author believes that they can vote for Trump and not be racist.  I think the term 'racist' - and 'bigoted' - weren't as well defined as they should have been, especially given how they were used in this context.   Given that the author delves into great detail about the definitions of ass-clown and asshole, and the differences between the two, I found it especially galling that he didn't break down whether he was talking about being actively racist or racist in that they supported someone who was so obviously racist, thus condoning his behavior.   Then when you read his biography, and see his credentials, and the fact that he is a professor and chair of philosophy and it seems especially odd that he wouldn't tackle that head on.   (The end of the book, by the way, also touches upon something which may explain why he may not be prepared to call these people racists and bigots in public.   I have my theory, and I feel for him if this is the case, but I still feel like it should be called out. In fact, this one issue is what knocked off half a star because it bothered me so much.   Not only that he didn't say this out loud, but that combined with the fact that he didn't define exactly what he meant.)

 

That being said, this book gets more serious than funny at the end.   Much of the humor comes from him debating topics that one normally wouldn't, like the example I gave of trying to analytically decide if Trump is an ass-clown or asshole.   It's also heavier in the beginning.   By the time I realized it wasn't funny anymore, I didn't care: it veered slowly into the realm of sobriety.  I wouldn't have made it through this book if it weren't half-funny at first, and it was.   (I also made a barista laugh this morning: she was already laughing and saying she had so much fun at her work, and I showed her the book and she started laughing again and made a point of having me show all her co-workers.)   That being said, this lulled you into a sense of security with the humor up front.   

 

There are hints of it later, but there's just enough humor mixed in with the analysis and seriousness at the beginning to keep this from being too depressing. I was so into what he was saying by the midway point, that I didn't realize how serious it was getting and by then?   I just wanted to read more.   

 

This has a little bit of a deeper analysis of trump, but it's honestly mixed in with a lot of common sense things that I hadn't thought of in that way.   They were so obvious I didn't think about them, and somehow it clicked when I read them.   I also went 'someone needed to say this.'   I'm sure others have, but I read it here first. 

 

I keep saying this book is 'still timely.'   Allow me to explain: this was written while Trump was campaigning, and far before he got elected.   It was trying to explain what life would be like under the rule of Trump.   Not saying 'you have to vote this way' but just a more gentle 'this is what's happening, this is what he's like, do you really want this?  Please think about it at least.'   I couldn't read it pre-election because I was too nervous, so I picked it up after.   One of the things I'm doing is refusing to bow to Trump's will; he wants me to believe he's all so fantastic, the best, always winning, and I refuse to be browbeaten into believing this narrative.   Part of this is reading things that are truthful, or honest, or better yet both.   Like this.   Understanding Trump is important even after he's been elected, and while I don't have the perfect, or even near perfect, understanding of Trump, I certainly feel like I have a better understanding of Trump. 

 

Furthermore, this was well researched, using multiple resources to back up the author's points.  On Bullshit was referenced so often that I purchased it, and plan on reading it soon.  I feel more knowledgeable, and not just about Trump.   

 

Well worth reading, but not if you can't stomach this much Trump, no matter how much humor there is in the book.   I understand why some people won't, or can't, read this book and I respect that.  I found it morbidly fascinating and got to laugh at Trump being called an asshole/ass-clown hybrid - multiple times.   

 

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