Gurwitch is a likable exemplar of the I’d-rather-laugh-about-it-than-cry-about-it philosophy.

YOU'RE LEAVING WHEN?

ADVENTURES IN DOWNWARD MOBILITY

Erma Bombeck meets Dorothy Parker in this topical and often laugh-out-loud funny take on our modern malaise.

Those only familiar with Gurwitch’s tenure (1996-2002) on the TV show Dinner and a Movie will find that it only hinted at the Thurber Award finalist’s deceptively literate talents. Not just an accomplished actress, the author is also a contributor to NPR, and her essays and satire have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Despite her becoming modesty, her accomplishments are of considerably greater import than she often allows, even if her performance and writing gigs aren’t always as remunerative as she would like. Gurwitch possesses an appealingly cockeyed sense of humor, and she offers incisive takes on consumer culture and our contemporary confusions and lighthearted (though pointed) opinions on the travails that beset many middle-age women. In a consistently engaging narrative rich with personal anecdotes, the author pokes fun at her misadventures in love, work, and home maintenance, but she also addresses other pressing matters—economic vulnerability in the gig economy, social inequities, raising nonbinary children, friendship, homelessness, wellness fads, the challenges of a life in the arts, and the mysteries of Zoom—with a similarly breezy touch that is surprisingly effective. Her account of her sudden onset of financial and emotional downward mobility is leavened with a sense of the far greater issues faced by others and punctuated with witty asides. Moonlighting as a film critic in what may be the most irresistible chapter, Gurwitch offers a wonderfully droll skewering of such fluffy wish-fulfillment movies as Something’s Gotta Give and Under the Tuscan Sun. Like even the best stand-up routine, not every gag or observation hits the mark, but the signal-to-noise ratio is high.

Gurwitch is a likable exemplar of the I’d-rather-laugh-about-it-than-cry-about-it philosophy.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-447-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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