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ALL THAT HAPPINESS IS

SOME WORDS ON WHAT MATTERS

Thoughtful contemplations on the pursuit to be happy.

The longtime New Yorker writer waxes philosophical in this slim, aphoristic book.

Gopnik, author of The Real Work, offers an extended essay on a positive and pleasing emotion. When he was 12, the author started to play guitar, and he recalls how happy he was when he first learned how to create “the ringing beauty of the G chord.” “The sense of happiness I felt that week remains resonant,” he writes. Next, Gopnik discusses the young Scottish poet Don Paterson’s obsession with Japanese origami. “Genuine happiness,” he writes, “is always rooted in absorption in something outside us, and begins in accomplishment undertaken for its own sake and pursued to its own odd and buzzing ends.” He argues that accomplishment counts for far more than the “tyranny” of achievement because “it’s more compelling than the concreteness, the trophy pressed in your hands.” Furthermore, “learning to work hard is as important as learning to work well.” Gopnik loves to cook at home, and chopping onions is “my entry to happiness.” For French painter Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, playing a violin wasn’t just a hobby; it was a “parallel passion, and it fed the already fully achieved virtuosic technical level of his primary art.” Thinking back on his guitar practicing, Gopnik writes, “accomplishment is bounded by the eternal truths of repetition and habituation and exhaustion and renewal.” He posits a “pluralism of pleasures” that extends deeply into our imaginations and practices, and he is a big believer in open societies because they provide more space for accomplishment. Some of the other things that bring the author happiness are the music of the Beatles; walking and biking in Central Park, admiring the work of “one of my personal heroes,” Frederick Law Olmsted; and, of course, the act of writing.

Thoughtful contemplations on the pursuit to be happy.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9781324094852

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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GREENLIGHTS

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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CALL ME ANNE

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

The late actor offers a gentle guide for living with more purpose, love, and joy.

Mixing poetry, prescriptive challenges, and elements of memoir, Heche (1969-2022) delivers a narrative that is more encouraging workbook than life story. The author wants to share what she has discovered over the course of a life filled with abuse, advocacy, and uncanny turning points. Her greatest discovery? Love. “Open yourself up to love and transform kindness from a feeling you extend to those around you to actions that you perform for them,” she writes. “Only by caring can we open ourselves up to the universe, and only by opening up to the universe can we fully experience all the wonders that it holds, the greatest of which is love.” Throughout the occasionally overwrought text, Heche is heavy on the concept of care. She wants us to experience joy as she does, and she provides a road map for how to get there. Instead of slinking away from Hollywood and the ridicule that she endured there, Heche found the good and hung on, with Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford starring as particularly shining knights in her story. Some readers may dismiss this material as vapid Hollywood stuff, but Heche’s perspective is an empathetic blend of Buddhism (minimize suffering), dialectical behavioral therapy (tolerating distress), Christianity (do unto others), and pre-Socratic philosophy (sufficient reason). “You’re not out to change the whole world, but to increase the levels of love and kindness in the world, drop by drop,” she writes. “Over time, these actions wear away the coldness, hate, and indifference around us as surely as water slowly wearing away stone.” Readers grieving her loss will take solace knowing that she lived her love-filled life on her own terms. Heche’s business and podcast partner, Heather Duffy, writes the epilogue, closing the book on a life well lived.

A sweet final word from an actor who leaves a legacy of compassion and kindness.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781627783316

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Viva Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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