Sometimes moving, sometimes funny, often horrifying, thoroughly heartfelt, and believable.

BEAUTIFUL THINGS

A MEMOIR

A memoir of addiction, family, and loss from the president’s son.

For much of his life, fate seemed to be trying to take Biden down, and he did his share to help it along. On the not-his-fault side were the tragic car accident when he was 2, which critically injured him and his older brother, Beau, and took the lives of their mother and sister; Beau's heartbreaking death at 46; and the nightmare of Donald Trump's relentless campaign to weaponize Hunter against his father. The author’s own major contribution to his troubles arose from his addiction to crack. His engrossing account of his downward spiral brings to mind Bill Clegg's Portrait of the Addict as a Young Man (2010), as Biden chronicles his battles with the “terrorizing band of skeletal night riders—the Four Horsemen of the Crackocalypse.” Sparing no detail, he ranges from the sardonic—while recounting his efforts to find crumbs of crack in the carpet, he writes, "I've smoked more cheddar popcorn than anyone on earth"—to the ruefully insightful: "Once you decide you're the bad guy everyone thinks you are, it's hard to find the good guy you once were." Looming over the narrative is the ultimate good guy, Beau, who didn't drink or take drugs and appears entirely pure in heart and mind. Though Hunter's addiction began long before Beau's death, the loss of his brother broke him. One of the hardest things to read about is the attempt by Hunter and Beau's widow, Hallie, to deal with their loss by becoming a couple. Difficult to read for different reasons is the chapter on Hunter’s Ukrainian business connections, which form the basis of Trump’s attacks and the "Where's Hunter" movement. The granular details shared here seem to bear out the author’s assessment that the whole episode is “most remarkable for its epic banality." When he was just about to cash in his chips for good, fate had one more surprise for Hunter, this one a stroke of Cupid’s magic.

Sometimes moving, sometimes funny, often horrifying, thoroughly heartfelt, and believable.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982151-11-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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

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GREENLIGHTS

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 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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