Smart, irrepressible prose that takes on the realities of cancer.

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A writer and stand-up comedian who survived a terminal cancer diagnosis confronts painful memories in this memoir.

In his debut book, Rodeo in Joliet(2008), Rockowitz recorded his battle with cancer after being diagnosed in 1998 as having three months to live. He was 28 years old at the time, and his wife was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. That memoir described the author’s seemingly miraculous remission and how his father, who prayed to exchange places with his son, was diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer soon afterward. In this new book, Rockowitz revisits this harrowing time but also recalls other memories, extending back to his childhood, which he feels have shaped him as a person. The author focuses tightly on relationships with others, from school friends to people he met after founding the Best Medicine Group, which aimed to bring live comedy into the homes of the terminally ill. Rockowitz describes heartbreaking moments, such as learning of the death of a close friend who was also one of the first patients that Best Medicine entertained. However, at other points, he recounts jaw-droppingly absurd moments, as when he went looking for “the largest dildo” in Manhattan as a joke gift for a cancer patient. Rockowitz’s prose style is terse and choppy, with paragraphs that are often only one sentence long and can resemble poetic verse: “The hospitals, the doctors, the pills, the poisons, the needles, the scans, the pain, the pain.” Readers who acclimate themselves to these stylistic quirks, though, will be rewarded with some darkly hilarious accounts, such as when he decides to write a letter to be given to his son in the event of his death: “By the time you read this it’s possible Mom has already gotten remarried…I just hope he’s not one of those dicks with the big calves and the ponytail….That guy’s probably into cycling too. That’s my worst nightmare for you.” At other points, Rockowitz also succeeds in echoing the yearnings of many cancer sufferers. The result is an offbeat but truly arresting survival memoir.

Smart, irrepressible prose that takes on the realities of cancer.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021


Page Count: 264

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: June 18, 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 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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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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