Francis Fukuyama ought to be locked up and forbidden from writing again, if only for his crimes against the noble profession of book reviewers. This class of scribblers likes to start formulating their thoughts about a book early in the reading process. It’s best if the author lays out their entire argument in the introduction, so that the reviewer can proceed with ever increasing speed through what are, strictly speaking, unnecessary central chapters, before arriving at a conclusion that helpfully reminds them of what they liked or didn’t like during the early bits. Fareed Zakaria books are particularly well suited for this.
One afternoon on their way to court, Abraham Lincoln made a startling confession to his law partner and future biographer William Herndon. As they made their way along a rutted, bumpy Illinois road, Lincoln said that his mother, Nancy Hanks, was illegitimate. Her father was a “well-bred Virginia farmer or planter…”
Henry Kissinger projects the public image of a judicious elder statesman whose sweeping knowledge of history lets him rise above the petty concerns of today, in order to see what is truly in the national interest. Yet as Kissinger once said of Ronald Reagan, his knowledge of history is “tailored to support his firmly held preconceptions.” Instead of expanding his field of vision, Kissinger’s interpretation of the past becomes a set of blinders that prevent him from understanding either his country’s values or its interests. Most importantly, he cannot comprehend how fidelity to those values may advance the national interest.
Partially as a consequence of being much admired, the novelist Ian McEwan has also been much criticized. The dominant trend of the complaints, aside from the general notion that he has been overpraised, is that he is too much a creature of his class: that the upper-middle-class, relatively powerful, relatively wealthy characters who populate his books (and, presumably, his life) are obnoxious in ways to which his narrative gaze is blind. It is said that they, and he, mistake their padded bourgeois concerns for proper objects of Serious Novels.
Prominent 19th century Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin famously described the Russian government in one word: voruyut—they steal. This description remains true today.
Russian scholar Karen Dawisha’s new book, Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? covers the latest episode in Russia’s long and painful history of government venality: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Putin is “both a product and a producer” of Russia’s pervasive corruption, according to Dawisha. The decay is on a scale few in the West truly understand. “In the West it might seem remarkable that anyone whose whole career is marked by allegations of corruption should rise to become a three-term president of any country,” she writes about Putin, “In Russia it is less surprising.”
As a national security writer for the Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough usually writes about weighty topics such as Islamic extremism and Russian aggression. But in his most recent work, Scarborough takes on dog parks. In a witty novel, he draws from six years of personal experience to satirize fanatical dog lovers and the eccentric communities in which they live.
In 2011, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, worried that the future might be over.
In a cover story for National Review, the entrepreneur and investor argued that, “when tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains.” Only drastic changes, he said, could sustain the centuries-long (and historically atypical) stream of progress that the rise of the West has represented.