Authors finds injustice in wealth gap of American society

05/10/2014 11:11 PM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

“The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau, $27)

Matt Taibbi begins his sixth book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” with a simple formulation: “Poverty goes up; Crime goes down; Prison population doubles.” It’s a snapshot, a way to represent what Taibbi sees as the through-the-looking-glass reality of contemporary America, where rule of law has been subverted by, on the one hand, corporate greed and, on the other, a kind of institutionalized abuse of the poor.

Such a landscape, he suggests, brings to mind the last days of the Soviet Union, which operated out of a similar sort of mass hypocrisy until, in 1990 and ’91, “people were permitted to think about all this and question the unwritten rules out loud, (and) it was like the whole country woke up from a dream, and the system fell apart in a matter of months.”

Not that Taibbi is particularly optimistic about such a revolution (of either justice or perception) happening here. Rather, he feels “like I’m living that process in reverse, watching my own country fall into a delusion in the same way the Soviets once woke up from one.”

“Roosevelt’s Beast” by Louis Bayard (Henry Holt, $27)

As even the most casual student of American history knows, Theodore Roosevelt was a larger-than-life figure. Besides being our 26th president, he was an outdoorsman, an explorer, a historian and a war hero.

T.R.’s adventures on the campaign trail, the battlefield and on African safaris have served as material for many works of fiction and nonfiction. In “Roosevelt’s Beast,” novelist Louis Bayard takes on one of his lesser-known exploits – his 1914 expedition to map a Brazilian rain forest waterway with an appropriately harrowing and mythical name, “the River of Doubt.”

Roosevelt had recently lost, badly, in his final political campaign, running as the Progressive Party presidential nominee and finishing a distant second to Woodrow Wilson. Never one to stay inactive, Roosevelt departed for South America on a speaking tour and found himself accepting an invitation from the legendary Brazilian explorer Cndido Rondon.

“Roosevelt’s Beast” tells this story from the point of view of the former president’s son, Kermit, an intelligent and sensitive man who can’t escape the shadow of his charismatic father.

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