An stunning and exhaustive account of Britain's gruesome suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.
Elkins's work here has been widely criticized fAn stunning and exhaustive account of Britain's gruesome suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.
Elkins's work here has been widely criticized for overestimating the number of rebel casualties and for failing to represent equally the brutality employed by the Mau Mau fighers. The former critique seems to have been largely ratified by historians, but the latter strikes me as misguided.
Elkins does not set out to revise well-documented accounts of Mau Mau savagery but to contextualize them against a vast and capricious system of colonial repression. Her project is to explore the hypocrisies of the British Colonial Office and its claims of civility and moral rectitude. To this end, Imperial Reckoning is a forceful indictment of Britain's administration of Kenya, revealing it to be at once incompetent, racist and willfully cruel.
This book certainly could have provided a more thorough and nuanced account of how the uprising was perceived by the broader Kenyan population (rather than by just the Kikuyu community and the white settlers), which would supply the reader with a better understanding of the rebellion's role in Kenya's ultimate decolonization. It also could have offered greater insight into the fractious politics within the Kikuyu community, which was divided by the war. But neither of these perspectives are within the relatively narrow scope of Elkins's project. It seems unfair to hold this book responsible for telling the whole history of the Mau Mau uprising. Rather, for a broader perspective, it seems supplementary reading is required....more
Orenstein is at her best when investigating the commodification of girlhood. And while she occasionally comes off as a raving Cassandra, fearful of thOrenstein is at her best when investigating the commodification of girlhood. And while she occasionally comes off as a raving Cassandra, fearful of the World Wide Web and mournful for a past age of consciousness-raising and riot grrrls, she makes a compelling argument about the perils of American consumer culture masquerading as empowerment.
She essentially argues that the proliferation of child-based advertising and the current vogue for gender determinism (“I guess girls are born loving pink,” one toy salesperson says) have created a trajectory of American girlhood riddled with frilly landmines.
Girl consumers slide effortlessly from toddler-aged princess play, which teaches them to idealize beauty over ability, to sassy (read: proto-sexual) tweendom, in which they learn to value acquisitiveness, and finally to early teen years defined by insecurity and sexual objectification, in which brand fealty and material consumption are the causes of, and ostensible solutions to, all their worldly problems.
Orenstein does frequently fall into fuddy-duddy territory – echoing the shrill objections of Facebook reactionaries (“Really? Six hundred twenty-two friends?” as though anyone could mistake Facebook ‘friends’ for real-world intimates). She even waxes nostalgic about the ‘more wholesome’ toys of her own childhood, including, ludicrously, Barbie. Still, this hyperventilating generally segues into legitimate concerns about marketing trends that trap girls in an endless cycle of virgin-whore shame and validation.
Most troubling are studies showing that consumer culture and its prefabricated storylines – Bratz dolls with their shopping-based Sturm und Drang, for example – limit children’s capacity for creative play. It’s not clear how large the sample sizes were, or how applicable the findings are to real life, but it’s enough to convince adults to cast a skeptical eye at the commercialization and pinkification of American girlhood. ...more
Click was written in the same vein as Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and Outliers. Like Gladwell, the authors assemble empirical evidence to prove our univeClick was written in the same vein as Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and Outliers. Like Gladwell, the authors assemble empirical evidence to prove our universal capacity for greatness, but they do so with less verve, worse prose, and more cynicism. Their book is part of a growing genre that I consider MBA junk science, the distillation of lite social science into recipes for corporate success.
The authors collect anecdotes about meaningful and successful (and profitable) relationships, and they dissect each relationship to inspect its component parts. They fluff these examples with some unsurprising study conclusions (people prefer those similar to themselves!), and summarize with a handy how-to guide for “clicking” with other people (especially, it becomes clear, business partners).
Click is also peppered with an invented, needlessly buzzy vocabulary, meant to be absorbed into the parlance of sales executives a la “tipping point” and “long tail”. For example, people who “click” have “quick-set intimacy” and “resonance” and experience “personal elevation.” I might make the common-sense observation that fruitful relationships are borne of easy camaraderie and a tendency to encourage the best in one another. But that wouldn’t earn me lucrative speaking engagements at corporate retreats. So. ...more
It's unfortunate that my first impulse, one common to many readers, is to compare David Rakoff to David Sedaris. Because compared to Sedaris's winningIt's unfortunate that my first impulse, one common to many readers, is to compare David Rakoff to David Sedaris. Because compared to Sedaris's winning alchemy of wit and absurdity, Rakoff's stories at first seem a little wan. To the hearty comedy that is "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Fraud" might be a bitter, hemophiliac sibling. But I think I might prefer Rakoff for exactly this reason. Rakoff is less interested in mining a situation for its inherent inanity than he is in investigating his own cynical reactions to those situations. Where Sedaris is brightly, eagerly funny, and forthrightly sets out to endear himself to his readers, Rakoff is caustic and dark. His jokes don't have punchlines, except where, through a combination of pomposity and self-flagellation, he is himself the punchline.
One of many gems: "The average fertile thirty-five-year-old man has many million sperm, a few million of which are motile enough to knock someone up. When I get my results, I find that I have ten. Not ten million: ten. Three are dead in the water, and the other seven are technically motile but given a grade very close to dead... I come up with the idea of naming them. For all the male-of-the-species reproductive good they'll do me, I consider calling them all Janet. Then I settle on Radcliffe, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Vassar."
Not to be too distracted by the comparison between Sedaris and Rakoff, I do think it's worth noting that Rakoff's essays have a fuller roundness. Whereas Sedaris's stories ramble a little like an anecdote delivered to a friend, Rakoff's stories are tighter, each finding by the conclusion the thematic thread of its introduction. Of course, there's much more to them as well. There is greater loneliness in these essays. Epiphanic moments illuminate the most alienating situations. One such moment comes as the author returns from a lonesome trip to Scotland over Passover: "I retire to the dining car. I sit, smoking and drinking a stunningly expensive beer across from a man who tucks in to his plate of haggis and peas. I smile at him in greeting. He does not know it, but this is our silent seder for two."...more