All Aboard the ARC: On Tyranny Graphic Edition: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy D. Snyder (Author) and Nora Krug (Illustrator)

On Tyranny Graphic Edition: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy D. Snyder (Author) and Nora Krug (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions On Tyranny Graphic Edition: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, its creators, or its publisher.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review

When On Tyranny first came out in 2017…I called it the “most powerful and timely book we’ve got right now,” and I stand by that assessment.

When On Tyranny first came out in 2017, I remember reading it in my bathtub, absolutely riveted and completely terrified. I remained that way, completely terrified that is, through the remainder of Trump’s presidency up until the present day. In the short review I posted on Goodreads at the time, I called it the “most powerful and timely book we’ve got right now,” and I stand by that assessment. In it, Snyder presented us with a model of political rectitude, elucidating the present by drawing parallels from the past in the hope that we might steer ourselves toward a more just and equitable future.

Democracy does not offer roadside assistance.

To return to my terror, I suppose Snyder himself would say that an alert citizen is a good citizen, but only if that citizen is proactive rather than reactive. Like most forms of social good, democracy does not self-correct when it encounters flaws in the mechanism. The people in charge of its maintenance, which is all of us, have to pull over on the side of the road, lift up the hood, and put in a little elbow grease to fix it. To further labor the metaphor: Democracy does not offer roadside assistance.

To lessen our chances of breaking down in the first place, however, it’s important to practice good citizenship at all times, not just in times of crisis. We should advocate for the causes important to us all the time, not just during an election year. We should lobby our legislators to pass laws that strengthen our democracy, that protect human rights. We should make calls, donate when and where we can, and show up to participate with our bodies every chance we get.

I have done my best to be a proactive citizen and I’d like to think that my efforts helped us to avoid another four years of Trump, at least for the moment. I’m holding my breath thinking that putrid orange tyrant will try to run again in the next presidential election. If he does, and heaven forbid, wins, God have mercy on us all.

On my not-so-good days, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think we were doomed beyond saving, but I don’t like to back down from a fight. It’s not good for your digestion.

The good news is I’m not that much of a cynic yet. On my not-so-good days, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think we were doomed beyond saving, but I don’t like to back down from a fight. It’s not good for your digestion. Actually, I’m not sure what pugnacity does for your digestion, but I’ve always found it winsome to follow the revealing of a questionable character trait with something ameliorative to make myself more palatable.

Timothy Snyder is not only a historian of the highest echelon, but a prescient prognosticator of our possible political futures.

I was so excited when I found out that a graphic edition of Snyder’s book was being released and having now read it, I can assuredly say it did not disappoint. Timothy Snyder is not only a historian of the highest echelon, but a prescient prognosticator of our possible political futures. I intentionally used futures, plural, because our course is not set. We the people, the body politic, are the cartographers drawing the map toward our future. What the future looks like is based on the collective decisions we make today to either defend or neglect democracy. Don’t let’s make it easy for the tyrants, orange or otherwise.

We the people, the body politic, are the cartographers drawing the map toward our future. What the future looks like is based on the collective decisions we make today to either defend or neglect democracy.

Nora Krug’s illustrations are sometimes macabre and at other times breathtakingly beautiful, and sometimes they are both in equal measure. All of her illustrations are elegant in their simplicity and deftly executed on the page. Her inclusion of historical photographs, many of which were found in photo albums and other ephemera at flea markets and antique shops, add depth and pictorial veracity to Snyder’s narrative of the history of tyranny in the twentieth century.

Nora Krug’s illustrations are sometimes macabre and at other times breathtakingly beautiful, and sometimes they are both in equal measure.

Although a review is not and should not necessarily be a summary of a work, I’d like to include here the twenty lessons Snyder gives in his book, if for no other reason than to pique the interest of would-be readers.

Snyder’s Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

  1. Do not obey in advance.
  2. Defend institutions.
  3. Beware the one-party state.
  4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.
  5. Remember professional ethics.
  6. Be wary of paramilitaries.
  7. Be reflective if you must be armed.
  8. Stand out.
  9. Be kind to our language.
  10. Believe in truth.
  11. Investigate.
  12. Make eye contact and small talk.
  13. Practice corporeal politics.
  14. Establish a private life.
  15. Contribute to good causes.
  16. Learn from peers in other countries.
  17. Listen for dangerous words.
  18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.
  19. Be a patriot.
  20. Be as courageous as you can.

© 2017, 2021 Timothy Snyder. All rights reserved.

On Tyranny Graphic Edition: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century was released by Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed Press on October 5th, 2021 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Film Review: Being the Ricardos (2021); Directed by Aaron Sorkin

Promotional poster for Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos. Copyright 2021 Amazon Studios.

In Being the Ricardos, Kidman lends her talents for transformation to her portrayal of Lucille Ball, almost inarguably the greatest television comedienne to ever work in the medium.

If I hit him in the face until he is bleeding, does our insurance cover that?

Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman), to her husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), about an irksome director

By now, American moviegoers are well-acquainted with Nicole Kidman and her talent for transformation. Woe unto the would-be cinephile who neglects to study her performance as Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s The Hours, for which she was awarded the 2002 Academy Award for Best Actress. In Being the Ricardos, Kidman lends her talents for transformation to her portrayal of Lucille Ball, almost inarguably the greatest television comedienne to ever work in the medium. You have to give props to pioneers Carol Burnett and Betty White as well, but I would argue that they were not possible without Lucille Ball paving the way for them with her grape-stained feet. Javier Bardem stars alongside Kidman as Desi Arnaz, Lucille’s real-life and television husband. Being the Ricardos also benefits from its stellar supporting cast, including Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons as William Frawley, Tony Award-winning actress Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance, and Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh. Linda Lavin portrays an older Pugh in mockumentary-style interviews interspersed throughout the film, and it should be said that any production benefits from Lavin’s inclusion.

Far from being an overarching biopic of Ball’s life or the marriage of Lucy and Desi, Being the Ricardos instead focuses in on one turbulent week during the filming of I Love Lucy.

Far from being an overarching biopic of Ball’s life or the marriage of Lucy and Desi, Being the Ricardos instead focuses in on one turbulent week during the filming of I Love Lucy. I have to mention here that parts of the film are blatantly ahistorical. Desi’s ousting as a philanderer, Lucy’s Communism debacle, and the announcement of her pregnancy did not all occur in the same week. However, I am willing to forgive Aaron Sorkin for condensing more drama into that fateful week than actually existed because we are talking about the cinema here and sometimes the cinema requires a little greasing of the wheels, so to speak.

What chafes me is that Lucy’s deeper involvement with Communism wasn’t explored. If they weren’t going to do it justice it should have been left out entirely. Along with that, certain episodes of I Love Lucy that were discussed in the film were misnumbered for no justifiable reason, allowing the pedantic among us (yours truly included) to itch with irritation.

I feel like the film would have been better served by focusing on one conflict rather than oscillating between numerous subplots that make the narrative shallow when the objective is depth.

I feel like the film would have been better served by focusing on one conflict rather than oscillating between numerous subplots that make the narrative shallow when the objective is depth. They could have eighty-sixed the Communism and the concomitant hokey convo between Desi, J. Edgar Hoover, and the live studio audience near the end of the film. Instead, to give the film its proper denouement, Lucy could have confronted Desi about his philandering right before the taping of the episode, leaving him shocked and shaken while Lucy triumphs once more as America’s most-beloved housewife.

The fact is, I hate to be so critical of a movie I enjoyed so much but I feel like a good movie was robbed of the opportunity to be great simply because Sorkin was trying to do too much at once. In my opinion, the best scenes in the film are the ones between Kidman and Arianda (Vivian Vance) and Kidman and Shawkat (Evelyn Pugh), respectively.

In my opinion, the best scenes in the film are the ones between Kidman and Arianda (Vivian Vance) and Kidman and Shawkat (Evelyn Pugh), respectively.

During the scenes where Lucy is engaged in conversation with the two women, the gender politics of the era (of any era, really) are thrown into sharp relief. Pugh’s presence as a woman in a writer’s room when so few women were given seats at the table provides fodder for excellent conversations about agency, representation, and the sharing of credit in a collective creative process. At the same time, Vance’s body issues and self-consciousness surrounding her weight illuminate the stark contrast in privilege that exists between Lucy, who is thin, trim, and wields enormous power on the set as the title character, and Vance, who is often written as the designated ugly fat friend married to a cantankerous old man when she is so much more than that.

Pugh’s presence as a woman in a writer’s room when so few women were given seats at the table provides fodder for excellent conversations about agency, representation, and the sharing of credit in a collective creative process…At the same time, Vance’s body issues and self-consciousness surrounding her weight illuminate the stark contrast in privilege that exists between Lucy, who is thin, trim, and wields enormous power on the set as the title character, and Vance, who is often written as the designated ugly fat friend married to a cantankerous old man when she is so much more than that.

J.K. Simmons is being lauded for his turn as William Frawley, and while his performance is more than solid, I really want to see the Academy give Nina Arianda some love too, if for nothing else but deftly navigating Vance’s struggles vis-à-vis the gendered body politics of both the entertainment industry and the country at-large during the 1950s. When you see Vance struggling, it reminds you that precious little progress has been made toward body positivity and acceptance of people of all sizes, especially for women and femme-presenting people.

All in all, despite its cluttered script and odd pacing, Being the Ricardos succeeds due to its incredible performances from not only Kidman, who is a revelation, but the rest of the powerhouse cast as well.

Being the Ricardos was released on December 10th, 2021 and is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.