Is it better to laugh or cry at America’s most profoundly stupid politicians? Why not both laugh and cry, as anyone will by reading this new book by Andy Borowitz. He is one of our sharpest satirists, as evidenced by his column the Borowitz Report, but he’s wisely made this book nonfiction, skewering the dumbest of the dumb, most notably of course you-know-who. Republicans take most of the heat (he is at his best on Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin), but Borowitz takes a bipartisan tack when he skewers Bill Clinton for being a smart guy who tried to hide his intelligence by coming off as Elvis on the campaign trail. Laugh and cry, indeed.
This is a prequel of sorts to Bob Stanley’s first book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!—The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé, and this volume is not just as engagingly written as the first but in many ways more surprising, given how Stanley defines pop. In his view, it all began with the advent of the 78-r.p.m. record, which could handle only three minutes of music and thus shaped the way music was written and performed. Ragtime profited from this new way of listening to music, and thus the revolution began. This book is a joy to read, thanks to Stanley’s enthusiasm and his eye for the unjustly forgotten.
The revamped David Geffen Hall, in Lincoln Center, reopens this month, allowing the New York Philharmonic to return to its home one year ahead of schedule. So what better time to pick up Joseph W. Polisi’s history of Lincoln Center for a reminder of just how much skill and foresight and energy and ego (not in that order) went into building America’s premier performing-arts center. Polisi makes even budget meetings come alive—no small feat—but luckily the book is so much more than just a tale of what happens when politicians and financial folks get something right. Beacon to the World is about art and artists, and is an inspiration to read.