The Penguin Press


New Nonfiction

GODS & KINGS: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

Dana Thomas is the author of Deluxe and Gods and Kings.  Full Bio

New Nonfiction  GODS & KINGS: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

After McQueen’s graduation from Central Saint Martins, everyone around him urged him to stage a bona fide fashion show. It was time.

McQueen called the collection Nihilism because he said it was about anti-Romanticism. He turned the models into modern punks, bruised and smeared with dirt, their eyes made up to look drug-addict hollow, their hair savage Sid Vicious-like mohawks tinged with red.

A crowd of about three hundred filtered into the first-floor warehouse-like room as a sound track of house and riot grrrl music blared on the sound system.

When the show started, about half an hour late, the models exploded with a hard attitude and stormed past the crowd as the deejay played Nirvana, L7’s “Pretend We’re Dead,” and Cypress Hill’s “I Wanna Get High,” punctuated with silences. One girl pogo danced all the way down the runway. Another model, a student from Central Saint Martins also named Lee who had a boy/girl look, came out bare chested. Many of the models gave the crowd the finger as they walked by.

Like Galliano for his St. Martins degree show, McQueen played with the look of Les Merveilleuses, the late-eighteenth-century Frenchwomen who dressed in flowing, pale, sheer gowns. And like when Galliano reprised the look of muslin disease gowns for his Fallen Angels show, McQueen doused models with water to make the dresses cling to their skin. But where Galliano’s versions looked historic and costume-like and would have seemed strange on a woman in the street or at a party, McQueen’s take was defiantly modern and flagrantly sexual: sleek sleeveless ivory columns molded erotically on the breasts as if they were strapped in S&M harnesses; cling-wrap panties; trousers sliced down the back seam to reveal the buttocks; his signature bumster pants with waistlines cut so low the models had to shave their pubic hair backstage. One T-shirt, with his logo printed large across the breasts, had two smeared bloody handprints down the front, as if a violent murderer was leaving his mark on his latest victim.

If Galliano was a romantic, McQueen was a pornographer. The Larry Flynt of Fashion. He didn’t believe anything was off-limits. Nothing—nothing—was taboo. He accepted the brutality of human nature, thought it normal, didn’t try to suppress it. He didn’t want to put women on a pedestal like untouchable, unreachable goddesses. He wanted to empower them. He wanted to help them use the power of their sex to its fullest.

Announcing David Axelrod’s Book Tour

Buy Believer before it comes out on February 10 and receive a bookplate signed by David Axelrod. Details here.

92ND STREET Y/In Conversation with David Remnick
91st. Street and Lexington Ave.
New York, NY
2/10/15, 7:30 pm
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POLITICS & PROSE AT 6TH AND I/In Conversation with John Dickerson
at 6th and I
Washington, DC
2/11/15, 7 pm
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776 Boylston Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
2/13/15, 12 pm
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1446 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
2/13/15, 7 pm
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PHILADELPHIA FREE LIBRARY/In Conversation with E.J. Dionne
1901 Vine St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
2/15/15, 12 pm
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1414 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL
2/16/15, 6 pm
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UNION LEAGUE CLUB AUTHORS GROUP/In Conversation with Rick Kogan
65 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604
2/16/15, 11:30 am
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LAPL AT THE WALLIS THEATER/In Conversation with Michel Martin (of NPR)
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA
2/17/15, 7:30 pm
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COMPUTER HISTORY MUSEUM/In Conversation with John Hollar
1401 N Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
2/18/15, 12 pm
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JCC OF SAN FRANCISCO/In Conversation with David Plouffe
3200 California St
San Francisco, CA 94118
2/18/15, 7 pm
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BERKELEY ARTS & LETTERS/In Conversation with Robert Reich
First Congregational Church
2345 Channing Way at Dana
Berkeley, CA
2/19/15, 7:30 pm
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TOWN HALL, SEATTLE/In Conversation with Steve Scher
1119 8th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101-2738
2/20/15, 7:30 pm
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2313 Red River St.
Austin, TX 78705
2/25/15, 6 pm
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Venue TK
Dallas, TX
2/26/15, 6:30 pm

CHICAGO TRIBUNE / PRINTER’S ROW/In Conversation with Clarence Page
Venue TK
Chicago, IL 60611
3/3/15, 7 pm
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New Nonfiction: The Fierce Urgency of Now by Julian Zelizer

Julian E. Zelizer is the author of Jimmy Carter, Arsenal of Democracy, and The Fierce Urgency of Now. Full Bio

New Nonfiction: The Fierce Urgency of Now by Julian Zelizer

Johnson often scoffed at the perception that he had extraordinary human skills that enabled him to move his colleagues. Indeed, he had lost some of his ability to directly shape this process when he moved from Capitol Hill to the White House. As president, he had to rely on legislators to do for him much of the legislative work he had once done for himself. About his power, he once complained, “The only power I’ve got is nuclear . . . and I can’t use that!”

The key to the success of the Great Society had less to do with the popularity of liberalism or the power of Johnson than with the changes between the summer of 1964 and the November elections that created unusually good conditions in Congress for passing bills. In other words, we need a less Johnsoncentric view to understand how this historic burst of liberal domestic legislation happened. We need to ask not only what Lyndon Johnson did that was so special but what legislative conditions existed that allowed someone with Johnson’s skills to succeed.

During this critical period, the power of the conservative coalition was diminished, first by the actions of the civil rights movement, which in 1963 and 1964 placed immense pressure on legislators in both parties to pass laws that would benefit African Americans, and subsequently by the 1964 elections, which gave liberals the huge majorities they needed to prevent conservative committee chairmen from thwarting their domestic policy aims in Congress. Not only did liberal Democrats have the votes necessary to pass bills and kill filibusters, but Republican moderates, a sizable force in their party, were running as fast as they could from all positions that might allow Democrats to brand them as right-wing extremists in the wake of the ultraconservative senator Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss in the presidential election.

Johnson deserves his share of credit, but less for being a skilled politician who could steamroll a recalcitrant Congress than for taking advantage of good legislative conditions when they emerged. Moreover, Johnson’s success with domestic programs resulted from a risky political maneuver he undertook in 1964 and 1965 to maintain momentum for his legislation. Resisting all the opposition he faced from White House advisers and legislators, Johnson escalated American involvement in Vietnam. There were many reasons why he ended up listening to the hawks and embarking on a disastrous war, including his general agreement with the domino theory of communism, but one of the most important was a political calculation that a liberal Democratic president had to be hawkish on foreign policy in order to be successful.

Preorder Believer by David Axelrod


Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Preorder Believer by 11:59 PM on February 9th wherever physical books, eBooks, or audiobooks are sold. 
  2. Fill out this form with your preorder details and we’ll send you a signed sticker! 

David Axelrod has always been a believer. Whether as a young journalist investigating city corruption, a campaign consultant guiding underdog candidates against entrenched orthodoxy, or as senior adviser to the president during one of the worst crises in American history, Axelrod held fast to his faith in the power of stories to unite diverse communities and ignite transformative political change. Now this legendary strategist, the mastermind behind Barack Obama’s historic election campaigns, shares a wealth of stories from his forty-year journey through the inner workings of American democracy. Believer is the tale of a political life well lived, of a man who never gave up on the deepest promises our country has to offer.

Believer reveals the roots of Axelrod’s devotion to politics and his faith in democratic change. As a child of the 60s in New York City, Axelrod worked his first campaigns during a tumultuous decade that began with soaring optimism and ended in violence and chaos. As a young newspaperman in Chicago during the 1970s and ’80s, Axelrod witnessed another world transformed when he reported on the dissolution of the last of the big city political machines—Richard Daley, Dan Rostenkowski, and Harold Washington—along with the emergence of a dynamic black independent movement that ultimately made Obama’s ascent possible. After cutting his teeth in the rollicking world of Chicago journalism, Axelrod switched careers to become a political strategist. His unorthodox tactics during his first campaign helped him get Paul Simon unexpectedly elected to the Senate, and soon Axelrod’s counsel was sought by the greatest lights of the Democratic Party. Working for path breakers like Hillary Clinton, Deval Patrick, and Rahm Emanuel—and morally conflicted characters like Rod Blagojevich and John Edwards—Axelrod, for better and worse, redefined the techniques by which modern political campaigns are run.

The heart of Believer is Axelrod’s twenty-year friendship with Barack Obama, a warm partnership that inspired both men even as it propelled each to great heights. Taking a chance on an unlikely candidate for the U.S. Senate, Axelrod ultimately collaborated closelywith Obama on his political campaigns, and served as the invaluable strategist who contributed to the tremendous victories of 2008 and 2012. Switching careers again, Axelrod served as senior adviser to the president during one of the most challenging periods in national history: working at Obama’s side as he battled an economic disaster; navigated America through two wars; and fought to reform health care, the financial sector, and our gridlocked political institutions. In Believer, Axelrod offers a deeper and richer profile of this extraordinary figure—who in just six years vaulted from the Illinois State Senate to the Oval Office—from the perspective of one who was at his side every step of the way.

Spanning forty years that include corruption and transformation, turmoil and progress, Believer takes readers behind the closed doors of politics even as it offers a thrilling call to democratic action. Axelrod’s Believer is a powerful and inspiring memoir enlivened by the charm and candor of one of the greatest political strategists in recent American history.

For more information:

World Order by Henry Kissinger

Even This I Get to Experience by Norman Lear

Embattled Rebel by James M. McPherson

Victoria by A.N. Wilson

Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta

New Nonfiction for the Holidays: Living the Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman

New Nonfiction for the Holidays: Living the Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman

We can call it the “matter of moral outsourcing,” and it comes from Milton, age forty-six. Milton’s take on secular morality goes something like this: People who base their morality upon their belief in God, or who think that morality comes from God, are guilty of “moral outsourcing.” Morality—in the view of secular people like Milton—is essentially about the decisions and choices one personally makes for oneself, based on contemplation, weighing of options, understanding alternatives, accepting possible consequences, and navigating complex life questions via one’s own conscience. Morality is about listening and adhering to one’s own inner moral compass concerning what is right or wrong, just or unjust, compassionate or cruel, and then acting accordingly in relation to others.

But if God is the source of morality, then a person doesn’t need to consult his own inner moral compass—one simply looks to God for direction. And looking to God for guidance about how to be moral is basically absolving oneself of doing the heavy lifting of moral deliberation. It is obediently deferring to a higher authority. It is seeking moral guidance elsewhere, outside of one’s self.

To many secular men and women, that is, in essence, a major abdication. A serious eschewal of ethical duty. A deep deferment of moral decision making. It is, in short, a cop-out. Secular morality allows for no such cop-outs; you have to make your own choices about how to treat others and how to live your life in a way that reflects your own personal conscience. That, many secular folk will argue, is true morality. In the words of philosopher and humanist Stephen Law, “It is our individual responsibility to make our own moral judgments rather than attempt to hand that responsibility over to some external authority.”

By predicating his morality upon his own conscience, Milton gets by quite well, or at least as well as most of us. And one obvious benefit to the secular morality embraced by people like Milton—at the larger, societal level—is that it is less likely to lead to blind obedience to those in positions of authority or to mob mentality. When people such as Milton refuse to outsource their morality and instead rely on their own conscience, they are much more likely to foster independent thinking, personal responsibility, skepticism toward hegemonic propaganda, and a sober self-awareness of why one chooses to do right over wrong—all of which are virtues highly compatible with and indeed essential for a healthy democracy.