Sharp insights from a passionate practitioner and champion of memoir.



A writer known for her candid autobiographical writing about sex, trauma, and female identity lays out the tenets of her craft.

Febos takes no prisoners in this strongly worded manifesto—despite her claim on the first page that it is not a manifesto. In fact, her impassioned theses and proclamations about writing are exactly that. Proceeding from the principle that “writing is a form of freedom more accessible than many and there are forces at work in our society that would like to withhold it from those whose stories most threaten the regimes that govern this society," she turns the charge of "navel-gazing" on its head. She further points out that memoirists do not publish raw therapeutic diaries but crafted literary works with the power to change the world. Her blunt anger is understandable. “At readings I would be billed on posters as MELISSA FEBOS, FORMER DOMINATRIX, alongside my co-reader, [INSERT MALE WRITER NAME], POET." In a chapter called "Mind Fuck," Febos lays out rules for writing about sex, starting with "You can use any words you want,” and she illustrates her points with well-chosen quotes from writers like Marie Howe, Nancy Mairs, Carmen Maria Machado, and Cheryl Strayed. In a useful chapter addressing the pitfalls of writing about other people, Febos describes her own approach and practices, developed via hard experience. A section called "Mom Goggles," for example, goes right to the question many readers may have about the writer's often X-rated work: Does her mother read it? It turns out she does, along with other family members, prior to publication. The author’s exhortations with regard to craft—"every single notation—every piece of punctuation, every word, every paragraph break in a piece of writing is a decision"; "The I of [the] narrator is not the I that writes the book"—are crucial, likely distilled from her lectures at the University of Iowa.

Sharp insights from a passionate practitioner and champion of memoir.

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64622-085-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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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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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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