Engaging reflections on a life lived fully and well.


A fitting coda to the career of a singular writer.

Morris (1926-2020) was a prolific historian and author perhaps best known for her Pax Britannica trilogy about the British Empire as well as her participation in Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s 1953 Mount Everest expedition. Refreshingly, this thematically conceived collection of essays, unlike so many publications of miscellany issued shortly after an author dies, reflects the writer’s intent and cooperation. As her longtime editor, Robert Weil, notes in the introduction, in her final decade of life, she discussed her work on a “posthumous book,” one not to be published until after she died—though, as Weil points out, not because it “contained salacious revelations.” Discussions of politics and other hot-button topics are scarce in this collection, which highlights the travel pieces that built the author’s reputation for acute observation and analysis. In addition, the book showcases Morris’ keen attention to mortality, faith (and lack thereof), and basic human decency—what Weil describes as her “adamantine belief in the power of kindness to help solve the immense problems of the world.” The title is appropriate, as the author’s essays are rarely about just one thing. A sterling example is her incisive appreciation of Ulysses, a novel she long resisted. Morris sees it not as a single coherent novel but rather an amalgamation of many parts: celebration of Dublin, portrait of an “outsider” figure, incomprehensible prose poem, “even a sort of sex manual, because a multitude of sexual preferences and variations are observed.” Though Morris began her gender transition from male to female in 1964 (at the time, one of the most well-known cultural figures to do so) and underwent reassignment surgery in 1972, she summarily dismisses “those more interested in my gender than in my books.” Throughout, she demonstrates the stylistic command that has always distinguished her work. While stressing empathy and resisting pomposity, she refuses to suffer fools gladly.

Engaging reflections on a life lived fully and well.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-87140-414-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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