In these 21 essays of nonfiction Adler draws on Toward a Radical Middle (a selection of her earliest New Yorker pieces), A Year in the Dark (her film reviews), and Canaries in the Mineshaft (a selection of essays on politics and media), and also includes uncollected work from the past two decades.
Adler is first and foremost a journalist, and positions herself as a centrist. The pieces are concerned with, in her words, misrepresentation, coercion, and abuse of public process, and, to a degree, the journalist’s role in it.
With a brilliant literary and legal mind, Adler parses power by analyzing language: the language of courts, of journalists, of political figures, of the man on the street. In doing so, she unravels the tangled narratives that pass for the resolution of scandal and finds the threads that others miss.
Adler delves into the ones that explain what really is going on here from the Watergate scandal, to the preposterous Kenneth Starr report submitted to the House during the Clinton impeachment inquiry, to the plagiarism and fabrication scandal of the former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. And she writes extensively about the Supreme Court and the power of its rulings, including its fateful decision in Bush v. Gore.