Kirkus Reviews is the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and ordinary readers alike. Now Popdose joins the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network to explore the best — and sometimes the worst — in pop-culture and celebrity books.
This week, things get meta, as we dish on the dish of the dirtiest dirt of the past 100 years…
Scandal is a sort of cultural currency, grounding narratives to their place and time. Those contemporary concerns — whether significant or petty in the grand scheme of things — are the backdrop against which our human dramas play out, and the texture that marks the date of a literary work. You can read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and grasp intuitively its themes of sexual deception, class anxiety, and the uncertainties of memory; you’ll need footnotes, though, to get you up speed on the Dreyfus Affair that so engages and polarizes the many characters.
Now Hallie Fryd has turned those footnotes into a book. Scandalous! 50 Shocking Events You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) is a slick, informative rundown of 100 years of bad behavior — sort of “A People’s History of the 20th Century: The Juicy Bits.” It’s an extended version of that curious staple of Web journalism, the listicle — the kind of thing you might find in the pages of mental_floss, the successor to populist reference works like An Incomplete Education and The Book of Lists. And like those earlier works, Scandalous! should be irresistible to its target young adult audience — as irresistible as scandal itself.
Scandalous! covers fifty key events, from 1906 onwards, in its parade of human indignity and shame. For each entry we’re treated to a once-sentence strapline, a two-page write-up of the scandal in question, quotes from the principals, a couple of paragraphs on the aftermath, and sidebars that aim to place the events in a sociological context. It’s a bathroom book, in short, designed to be read piecemeal and in brief sittings.
Some of these scandals will be familiar to most grown-ups, and even most teenagers — the Clinton impeachment, Watergate, and the Clarence Thomas hearings are all present, and will likely send high-schoolers back to their U.S. History textbooks to learn more. Others are more obscure, but still highly relevant: We’ve all heard a lot about Ponzi schemes in the last few years, but Scandalous! will, for many readers young and old, be their first introduction to Charles Ponzi himself.
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