An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions.

DON'T CALL IT A CULT

THE SHOCKING STORY OF KEITH RANIERE AND THE WOMEN OF NXIVM

How a treacherous cult amassed a following under the guise of self-improvement.

Vancouver-based investigative journalist Berman front-loads her startling, comprehensive exposé on the NXIVM group with key information on how the association became popular yet remained elusive to law enforcement. She shares interview material from several members of a large cast of characters, including Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram’s fortune who funded the organization for years (Clare is currently in prison). Berman tracks NXIVM “Vanguard” Keith Raniere’s history as an Amway distributor–turned–pyramid-sales executive. In the 1980s, he joined forces with former nurse Nancy Salzman (known as “Prefect”), and the duo promoted training and coaching programs geared toward women’s empowerment. Using a philosophical playbook influenced by Scientology and other similar groups, NXIVM began amassing members, each of whom was charged with recruiting others via classes called “intensives.” Bankrolled by the Bronfman sisters, who were cunningly exploited for their exorbitant wealth and strained familial relationships, the increasingly “dangerous mafia-like” society steamrolled its way into the lives of vulnerable, unsuspecting people, employing blackmail, extortion, forced confinement, and even sex trafficking. Raniere then created offshoots like the particularly insidious Dominus Obsequious Sororium. “By the time of his arrest,” writes Berman about DOS, “at least 102 women had been initiated into Raniere’s secret society. Not all of them had been branded, and not all of them had been coerced into sex, but court records and testimony would show that he considered all of them to be his slaves.” Not for the easily rattled, the author’s engrossing reportage meticulously reveals the tumultuous rise and fall of NXIVM after numerous criminal indictments and prosecutions. The author incorporates critical narratives from former members, laying bare their awful experiences. Her research, which eventually caused her to fear for her own personal safety, informs a vital cautionary tale about how “power, consent, and women’s agency” can be weaponized. File this alongside Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear and Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown.

An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58642-275-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 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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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 virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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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