Much eloquent—often lyrical—evidence that the author deserved his Nobel Prize.

PERSONAL WRITINGS

A collection of brief, piercing personal pieces by the 1957 Nobel laureate.

In a selection of essays from the 1930s to the 1950s, Camus (1913-1960) reveals himself to readers, discussing his affections, regrets, memories, problems, complaints, and ideas about art and writing. He writes frequently about his youth in Algeria (where he was born), and in a particularly poignant piece near the end, he revisits Tipasa (Tipaza), Roman ruins not far from where he grew up. He notes that “returning to places of youth” can be “a great folly,” but he clearly demonstrates otherwise in this essay. The author also writes incisively about war (both world wars), the meanings of cemeteries, the sea and sun and rain and the desert, and youth and age: “No longer to be listened to: that’s the terrible thing about being old…condemned to silence and loneliness.” Throughout are numerous classical allusions (to historical figures and events, to mythology); there’s a particularly fine piece about Prometheus and his sacrifices for humanity. “If Prometheus were to reappear,” he writes, “modern man would treat him as the gods did long ago: they would nail him to a rock, in the name of the very humanism he was the first to symbolize.” Camus sometimes chides the human race, but he sees hope in us, as well. Although he writes quite a bit about Algeria, he also describes some experiences elsewhere in the world (Paris, New York), and he sets the final essay aboard a trans-Atlantic ship. He discourses about the weather, the sailors, and the enormity of it all: “We sail across spaces so vast they seem unending.” What will strike many readers is the author’s extraordinarily evocative language, his astonishing facility to create memorable phrases and take readers to places most have never been but who, because of his artistry, feel immediately at home.

Much eloquent—often lyrical—evidence that the author deserved his Nobel Prize.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56721-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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