L.S. Klepp
September 27, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Devil Problem and Other True Stories

Current Status
In Season
David Remnick
Essays, Pop Culture

We gave it an A

The 18 essays in The Devil Problem and other True Stories aren’t about the disintegration of the Soviet empire, the subject of David Remnick’s acclaimed first book, Lenin’s Tomb. But he’s still interested in declines and falls: the decline of journalism, for instance, as reflected in a withering glance at USA Today (”Good News is No News”). The self-engineered tumbles of politicians like Gary Hart and Mario Cuomo. The descent of cities like Belfast and Washington, D.C., into chaos, as seen through the smoke and mirrors of Gerry Adams and the crack fumes and mirrors of Marion Barry. Remnick catches a baseball player on a downward trajectory (Reggie Jackson) and follows writers through exile and loss (Ralph Ellison, Elaine Pagels) — subtly shaded character sketches but also fables of recklessness, deception, and ultimately, redemption. A

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