Vital, democratic truth-telling.

LET THE RECORD SHOW

A POLITICAL HISTORY OF ACT UP NEW YORK, 1987-1993

The veteran author, screenwriter, and activist delivers a significant boots-on-the-ground account of the New York City chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

Though divisive, ACT UP’s in-your-face activism unquestionably improved life for subsequent generations of people with AIDS. Many of the volunteers saw themselves as warriors, some fighting for their lives by forcing governmental health institutes to care about them and stop delaying treatments. Founded in 1987 by novelist and playwright Larry Kramer, the New York chapter served as the “mothership” of what eventually became 148 chapters worldwide. The organization’s strategy of confrontation was inspired by Kramer’s insistence on political agitation born of necessity. Days before ACT UP was formed he notoriously told a crowd, “In five years, half of you will be dead!” ACT UP’s “boldest act of broad leadership” was the Stop the Church campaign, waged on Dec. 10, 1989, with WHAM! (Women’s Health Action and Mobilization). In a “raw display of power,” activists interrupted a Catholic service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, garnering heaps of both positive and negative media coverage. “Nothing could have been more counter to assimilationist or respectability politics than Stop the Church,” writes Schulman, who was a rank-and-file ACT UP volunteer. A longtime historian of LGBTQ+ activism, the author takes to task other histories of AIDS, including David France’s documentary film How To Survive a Plague (2012), which focuses on the “heroic white male.” Schulman clearly demonstrates that ACT UP was founded in part to engender a relentlessly democratic and inclusive force of activism. That ideology explains the heft of this book, which isn’t written as traditional history but as a mashup of events witnessed by Schulman and oral history that’s truly all-encompassing. Readers are right there with activists, hearing their stories from them but also others who knew them. “Drive and commitment, invention and felicity, a focus on campaigns, and being effective are the components of movements that change the world,” writes Schulman, an assertion born out in the stories told here.

Vital, democratic truth-telling.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-18513-8

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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 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

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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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