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Manufacturing Hysteria

Jay Feldman

Pantheon, $28.95/hardcover

It would be nice to believe that the Islamophobia that followed 9/11 was an anomaly, but unfortunately, that doesn't match the historical record. Jay Feldman takes an up-close and uncomfortable look at contemporary American fear, scapegoating and surrender of civil liberties in Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America. After starting with World War I and the Espionage Act of 1917, Feldman covers the first "Red Scare," the repatriation of Mexican workers in the early '30s, Japanese internment, the McCarthy era, and the excesses of COINTELPRO. His point, well made, is that we are only too ready to focus on an imaginary enemy while ignoring the very real erasure of our liberties. And it's not like this history is even history; Feldman's epilogue recounts the Obama administration's embrace of secrecy and paranoia as part of the status quo. — Kel Munger

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Crazy Things Parents Text

Stephen and Wayne Miltz

Sourcebooks, $10.99/paperback

Brought to you by the folks behind a website of the same name, as well as quickmeme.com, fyouautocorrect.com and thisiswhywerescrewed.com, Crazy Things Parents Text is basically dentist-office waiting-room fodder, or what my old college friend used to call "shitature," as in something read on the crapper. On par with, but certainly dirtier than, Bill Cosby's Kids Say the Darndest Things show, CTPT essentially laughs at the naiveté of the Baby Boomers and the mechanically un-inclined who don't seem able to grasp the basics of punching proper digits on a phone. There are some good laughs to be had by reading the text transcriptions (some dubious in authenticity), but it's basically a one-trick pony that becomes mildly tedious after about 10 pages or five minutes — something better read broken into small segments, and likely never looked at again. A lot like a text, actually. — Matthew Schniper

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He Talks Mars / She Talks Venus

Annie Tempest

Frances Lincoln Limited, $19.95/hardcover

He Talks Mars / She Talks Venus is a slim, double-sided book of comics from the wildly successful Tottering-By-Gently strip, which follows a dotty, middle-aged couple of leisure in the English countryside. Dicky and Daffy are a quaint pair, and the book struck me as semi-entertaining, sort of how I imagine Brits might see The Lockhorns. The strip is certainly not geared toward 20- or 30-somethings, even if most anyone can identify with its linchpin concept, the age-old communication gap between the sexes. But there's something undeniably ironic in the escapist simplicity of Dicky and Daffy, something difficult to get your arms around when considering this book and its author. Tottering's creator, Annie Tempest, lost her 18-year-old son to a heroin overdose last May. Though it shouldn't matter, it does endear the characters who struggle with relative non-issues like making tea and growing old. — Edie Adelstein


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