A masterpiece of historical and personal investigation, perfect for anyone trying to uncover their family’s past.



The noted anthropologist and historian takes his rich family history and builds a narrative of universal significance.

“Like the medieval Jew,” writes Lomnitz, “today’s migrant is at once a demeaned witness and a key economic player. Necessary, but always made to feel dispensable.” Born in Chile in 1957, the author, a professor at Columbia University, understands the plight of migrants: His maternal grandparents, seeing the terrors of rising anti-Semitism across Europe (and especially in Romania, where the peasantry and the government alike mounted murderous pogroms), brought his mother to Colombia in 1936. As if enacting a scene from a Gabriel García Márquez novel, having been brought up speaking four languages, the imposition of a fifth, Spanish, caused her to abandon “trying to find any consistency between all these languages, and [she] just stopped talking altogether.” In a whirl of new lands—Peru, Israel, the U.S., and Mexico among them—Lomnitz’s ancestors were observers and actors alike. Selling goods door to door on first arriving, they became masters of local geography and political organizing, with one busily turning from journalism to teaching to activism, daring to invoke Trotsky in a time when Stalin’s oppression was at its apex. Along his skillfully constructed narrative path, Lomnitz pauses to ponder such matters as the meaning of his name. “Names, like passports, often contain a trace of fear,” he writes, with his own first name chosen so that he might blend into a Chile that was not altogether innocent of anti-Semitism, his middle name honoring a dead uncle, and a secret Hebrew name added in for good measure. There is no end of intriguing anecdotes in these pages, and in a world of chaos, Lomnitz builds deep meaning from a comparatively small community of blood kin and friends. “We are no longer governed by tradition,” he writes, “so we can’t simply rely on a collective past. For this reason family history is again relevant.”

A masterpiece of historical and personal investigation, perfect for anyone trying to uncover their family’s past.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021


Page Count: 352

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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 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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