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New & Noteworthy, From Fake News to American Essays

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THE GLORIOUS AMERICAN ESSAY: One Hundred Essays From Colonial Times to the Present, edited by Phillip Lopate. (Pantheon, $40.) In 900-plus pages, with writers from Cotton Mather to Rachel Carson and beyond, this anthology marshals a quintessentially American vision.

LAUGHING TO KEEP FROM DYING: African American Satire in the Twenty-First Century, by Danielle Fuentes Morgan. (University of Illinois, cloth, $110; paper, $24.95.) Morgan explores a radical impulse in recent Black comedy, arguing that performers like Dave Chappelle or films like “Get Out” aim to highlight racial boundaries.

AFTER THE FACT? The Truth About Fake News, by Marcus Gilroy-Ware. (Repeater Books, paper, $16.95.) Gilroy-Ware, a British journalist and media scholar, evaluates why expanded access to information has instead led to a glut of disinformation and mistrust just when we need consensus on matters of grave import.

THE DECAMERON PROJECT: 29 New Stories From the Pandemic, selected by the editors of The New York Times Magazine. (Scribner, $25.) Life in lockdown, as imagined by fiction writers including Margaret Atwood, Charles Yu and Karen Russell for The Times Magazine.

AGAINST AMAZON: And Other Essays, by Jorge Carrión. Translated by Peter Bush. (Biblioasis, paper, $16.95.) The Spanish author’s essays on reading are anchored by his title manifesto, which enjoyed prior success as a pamphlet.

If you grew up in Texas in the late 1960s and early ’70s, as I did, a course in Texas history was a requirement. Yet I’ve learned more from Volumes I and II of Robert Caro’s “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” than I ever did in school. The second volume, MEANS OF ASCENT, contains a biography-within-a-biography of Gov. Coke Stevenson, the original ranch-owning, brush-clearing Texas politician, now mostly forgotten. But it’s Caro’s retelling of the Stevenson-Johnson Democratic primary race for a Senate seat in 1948 that made for gripping reading in the fall of 2020. The 1948 Election Day was chaotic, and the vote count even more so, with pro-Johnson ballots seeming to appear out of nowhere to overturn Stevenson’s significant lead. The results ended up in court, and the race wasn’t settled for more than a month. As with this year’s election, the story of that Texas vote in 1948 was better than fiction.

—Steve Kenny, senior editor for nights

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