A wonderfully convoluted, catty, candid, and clever piece of work.



Art critic Peter Schjeldahl's daughter takes a shot at finishing her father's derailed biography of Frank O'Hara and ends up writing a fascinating memoir.

Calhoun, author of the excellent St. Marks Is Dead, was looking for a childhood toy when she found the cassettes of her father's interviews with O'Hara's associates, recorded in preparation for writing an authorized biography in the late 1970s. Due to circumstances revealed gradually, support for the work was withdrawn by Maureen O'Hara, the poet's sister and executor. Calhoun began blithely, certain she could resurrect the project, but what ensues turns out to be both somewhat less and very much more. As her husband, Neal, puts it in one of many adept formulations, "this is two successive generations of writers trying to say something of value about a wonderful, talented, funny young man who wrote lovely poetry and died in a freak accident. What a series of dying stars all collapsing in on each other: your dad’s book, Maureen’s machinations, your dad’s poetry career, your attempts to win the scenario, your relationship with your dad, your relationship with Maureen." In Neal's view, even the difficulties are "amazing and beautiful,” and surprisingly, given the number of resentments and disillusions cataloged here (Larry Rivers, watch out!), he is right. Even the title of the book comes from the off-base headline on O'Hara's obituary in the New York Times: “EXHIBITIONS AIDE AT MODERN ART DIES—ALSO A POET.” The most powerful of the misapprehensions lies between the author and her father: "Perhaps my role as a writer who is not the best writer in my family is the cost of paying attention to my family," she submits, a typically loaded remark. One imagines her father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019 but has lived to read this work, is at last returning the long-withheld favor.

A wonderfully convoluted, catty, candid, and clever piece of work.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5978-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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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 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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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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