Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 9, 2009



Dan Baum

The hidden history of a haunted and beloved city told through the intersecting lives of nine remarkable characters. After Hurricane Katrina, Dan Baum moved to New Orleans to write about the city's response to the disaster for The New Yorker. He quickly realized that Katrina was not the most interesting thing about New Orleans, not by a long shot. The most interesting question, which struck him as he watched residents struggling to return, was this: Why are New Orleanians-along with people from all over the world who continue to flock there-so devoted to a place that was, even before the storm, the most corrupt, impoverished, and violent corner of America?

Nine Lives is a multi-voiced biography of this dazzling, surreal, and imperiled city through the lives of nine characters over forty years and bracketed by two epic storms: Hurricane Betsy, which transformed the city in the 1960’s, and Katrina, which nearly destroyed it. These nine lives are windows into every strata of one of the most complex and fascinating cities in the world. From outsider artists and Mardi Gras Kings to jazz-playing coroners and transsexual barkeeps, these lives are possible only in New Orleans, but the city that nurtures them is also, from the beginning, a city haunted by the possibility of disaster. All their stories converge in the storm, where some characters rise to acts of heroism and others sink to the bottom. But it is New Orleans herself-perpetually whistling past the grave yard-that is the story’s real heroine. Nine Lives is narrated from the points of view of some of New Orleans’s most charismatic characters. By resurrecting this beautiful and tragic place and portraying the extraordinary lives that could have taken root only there, Nine Lives shows us what was lost in the storm and what remains to be saved.


Jack McEney

Brush Cat recounts a year in the life of men who perform one of the most dangerous jobs in America - logging New England’s vast forests for timber used in hundreds more ways than most of us realize, from houses to furniture to paper to electricity. In the spirit of John McPhee and Tracy Kidder. While they are first and foremost loggers cutting down trees, they are also ardent and effective conservationists who depend on healthy, intact forests for their long-term survival.

The narrative moves from useful tips on how not to lose body parts to a chain saw, through the terror of huge trees that fall the wrong way, to inconsistent and wrong-headed government forest management. It explores the worldwide demand for wood and wood chips, as well as the effect of climate change on the forest, and traces the money that keeps it all moving. Brush Cat clears the branches to reveal a hidden and fascinating world.


Steven Shafarman

In the 1960s, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans supported plans to guarantee people's economic security. Advocates included George McGovern, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Richard Nixon, and more than 1,200 economists, among them John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman. Peaceful, Positive Revolution updates those ideas and invites every American to participate in taking back our country from the special interests.

Steven Shafarman is president of Income Security For All and a member of the coordinating committee of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network. This is his fifth book. He lives in Washington, D.C. ORDER


Ted Cohen

This memoir portrays the young George W. Bush. He was a spoiled rich brat. He was an adolescent drunk. He was a prankster frat boy at an Ivy League. His famous father got him out of the draft. He got elected to the highest office in the world. Impressive resume. Stranger than fiction. By the Maine reporter who busted W for drunk driving. ORDER


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