A captivatingly candid and sharply written account of a gay adoptee’s odyssey.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

GRINNIN' LIKE A JACKASS EATIN' BRIARS

An adoptee discusses his struggles to conform in the American South and his difficulties coming to terms with his sexual identity in this memoir.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1963, Batton was raised on a 700-acre peanut and tobacco farm. As a child, he recalls having a “Tom Sawyer existence,” although he had a fraught relationship with his adoptive father, whom he describes as a bigot and a “well-mannered racist.” By the age of 8, the author was already aware of his fascination with the male body but had no concept of gay sexuality. Growing older, he felt it necessary to disguise his “gayness,” but this changed after entering LaGrange College as a theater major; his life became a “blur of bars and boys.” Batton’s life changed again while attending a church service. He experienced a moment of epiphany, believing God had delivered him from being gay. The autobiography details the author’s attempts to “look inconspicuous in the straight world,” which involved marriage, fatherhood, and a passionate drive to help the poor. The last led him to work in outreach programs in Hong Kong and London. Written with Napoleon, who helped the author get the “story to paper,” this compelling first-person account chronicles Batton’s coming to terms with his identity as both an adoptee and a gay man. Elements of his life are desperately sad yet recounted with a brisk frankness. Regarding school, he notes: “If I could keep everyone laughing, then no one would call me a faggot. I shifted my entire persona to try to fit in and never be the last kid picked for kickball.” Batton also bravely owns up to deflecting attention away from himself by deriding others: “I was the personification of a shrike, a gruesome little creature that seemed to derive pleasure and sustenance from the slow feeding on others.” His use of language is modestly elegant, and while some readers may argue that he overuses similes, they inject a delightful levity throughout: “Grandfather was meaner than a wet hen in a rainstorm.” From recounting his endeavors to find his birth mother to describing his struggles with fatherhood, Batton presents a richly textured autobiography—readers grappling with their own sexuality may well relate to his journey of self-discovery.

A captivatingly candid and sharply written account of a gay adoptee’s odyssey.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7348774-2-7

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more