A follow-up that tackles loneliness and isolation with remarkable candor and biting comedy.

STARGAZING IN SOLITUDE

A writer continues to explore life after a terminal diagnosis in her second memoir.

After Frontal Matter: Glue Gone Wild (2018), writer and Appalachian State University professor Samples has returned to the short, potent essays that recount her experience of terminal glioblastoma multiforme, a type of aggressive brain cancer. While her previous book examined the more immediate and physical implications of cancer, Samples now turns to the fallout in her personal life as treatments start to span years. (“You’re saying I might have to do this for 12 more years?” she hilariously asked a doctor trying to give her hopeful life span predictions.) The different anecdotes are set in Boone, North Carolina, and various locations where she traveled with her family. Samples stumbled after her hard-partying sister, Sarah, in Brooklyn and followed her mother, Jenifer, on Alaskan and Caribbean cruises (“Suzanne + Brain Cancer = Jenifer Buys Cruises”). There is a loose chronology covering her return to work, the publication of her first memoir, her move to live with her parents in West Virginia, and finally, the rise of Covid-19, which introduced the rest of the world to the isolation she had known for years. But it’s that very sense of isolation that serves as the real glue holding her narratives together. “It’s funny how everyone is your friend until you get brain cancer,” Samples posts on social media, inadvertently creating comments that end a yearslong friendship. Her attempt at a one-night stand with a younger woman created a volatile relationship that she refused to put above her art. Several friends disappeared, some following her own outbursts. It all reinforced Samples’ sense that she lived alone in a “purgatory,” somewhere between recovered and still terminally ill. (She nails this unsettling sentiment in one of the book’s standout stories featuring a dreamlike support group that takes place “nowhere.”) Samples guides us through perhaps even more troubling, existential territory, but she has yet to lose her caustic, playful wit. Her asides are sharp and laugh-out-loud funny, making her grim purgatory a fascinating, strangely entertaining place to visit.

A follow-up that tackles loneliness and isolation with remarkable candor and biting comedy.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-94-704192-9

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Running Wild Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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