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COMMITTED WRITINGS

Throughout, Camus’ talent, humor, and passion glisten like rare jewels.

A focused collection of the political and moral writings and speeches by the Nobel laureate.

After a fresh foreword by Camus scholar Alice Kaplan, the compilation begins with four letters Camus (1913-1960) published during World War II, purportedly to a German he knew but who is likely the author’s creation. The letters assail the Germans for what they have done—and continue to do—with fierce candor: “violence is more natural to you than thinking”; “you scorned knowledge and spoke only of strength.” The longest piece is “Reflections on the Guillotine” (1957), which describes and condemns capital punishment, employing logic, passion, grim detail, and skillful prose. Camus begins with his father’s vomiting after witnessing a beheading; later, he includes a horrible description of another beheading gone wrong. The author argues that capital punishment is not punishment but “revenge” and includes comments about how the death penalty is related to religious history. The volume concludes with two speeches related to the author’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize in literature. The first is the official speech he gave at the ceremony in Stockholm; the second, a lecture he delivered at Uppsala University. In the first, Camus is humble and grateful and talks passionately about the significance of his art in his life. The second explores the idea of realism in literature—and how absolute realism is impossible. It would require, he writes amusingly, the author to devote their life to following the entire life of another. Camus is also playful with the old metaphor of the broken eggs and the omelet: You don’t need to break thousands of them to make one omelet. The author ends by saying that truth should be the aim of the artist.

Throughout, Camus’ talent, humor, and passion glisten like rare jewels.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56719-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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

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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. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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CALYPSO

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

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In which the veteran humorist enters middle age with fine snark but some trepidation as well.

Mortality is weighing on Sedaris (Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002, 2017, etc.), much of it his own, professional narcissist that he is. Watching an elderly man have a bowel accident on a plane, he dreaded the day when he would be the target of teenagers’ jokes “as they raise their phones to take my picture from behind.” A skin tumor troubled him, but so did the doctor who told him he couldn’t keep it once it was removed. “But it’s my tumor,” he insisted. “I made it.” (Eventually, he found a semitrained doctor to remove and give him the lipoma, which he proceeded to feed to a turtle.) The deaths of others are much on the author’s mind as well: He contemplates the suicide of his sister Tiffany, his alcoholic mother’s death, and his cantankerous father’s erratic behavior. His contemplation of his mother’s drinking—and his family’s denial of it—makes for some of the most poignant writing in the book: The sound of her putting ice in a rocks glass increasingly sounded “like a trigger being cocked.” Despite the gloom, however, frivolity still abides in the Sedaris clan. His summer home on the Carolina coast, which he dubbed the Sea Section, overspills with irreverent bantering between him and his siblings as his long-suffering partner, Hugh, looks on. Sedaris hasn’t lost his capacity for bemused observations of the people he encounters. For example, cashiers who say “have a blessed day” make him feel “like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.” But bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals.

Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-39238-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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