A lovely evocation of some “spectral and unreal” elements of the British landscape.

GHOSTWAYS

TWO JOURNEYS IN UNQUIET PLACES

Travels in spectral places whose names are barely on the map of England—and so much the better.

Writing with Donwood and Richards, Macfarlane, perhaps the foremost British nature writer at work today, extends his fascination with little-known geographies—see his last book, the outstanding Underland (2019)—by visiting two beyond-the-ken English districts. The first is the “untrue island” of Orford Ness off East Anglia, both wild and bearing a heavy human footprint. Half a century ago, it was used by the government for nuclear tests; now, “brown hares big as deer lope across expanses of shingle cratered by explosions, and the wind sings in the wires of abandoned perimeter fences.” Macfarlane walks the sandy, grassy landscape, delivering a portrait that blends poetry, prose poem, dialogue, and essay, peppered with sightings of the ghostly and uncanny. As is his wont, the author sprinkles long-forgotten landscape terms throughout his pages (“drongs, sarns, snickets, bostles”). One of them is the subject of the second part of the book, the “holloway”—the hollow way, an ancient avenue of humans and animals worn in the soft rock of Exeter, some thousands of years old. “A sunken path, a deep & shady lane,” writes Macfarlane. “A route that centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll & rain-run have harrowed into the land,” kin to a hedgerow but wilder still, since few holloways are used by modern travelers: “They have thrown up their own defences and disguises: nettles & briars guard their entrances, trees to either side bend over them & lace their topmost branches to form a tunnel or roof.” The writing is idiosyncratic and elegant, the story inviting enough that, for all its eldritch elements, one might wish to wake up covered in dew and join Macfarlane, Richards, and Donwood (perhaps best known for his Radiohead album covers) in a meal of damson gin and tea-bread—and maybe see a few ghosts along the way.

A lovely evocation of some “spectral and unreal” elements of the British landscape.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-01582-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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