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WINNERS AND LOSERS

IN WORDS AND CARTOONS

A mixed bag of gags and witticisms revealing the hollowness of both victory and defeat.

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In this cartoon collection by the author of The Slings and Arrows of Mundane Fortune (2019), the concepts of winning and losing are unpacked, tongue firmly in cheek.

“Those who are admired—whether for their success, brilliance, beauty, talent, or charm—are winners,” writes Hartz in his introduction. He adds: “They are valued, their faults tolerated, and their kindness exaggerated.…By contrast, the nonwinners—the losers—struggle for appreciation and companionship, and their mistakes are viewed without sympathy.” So begins this collection of single-panel cartoons and aphorisms deconstructing what it means to be a winner—or the opposite—in modern American society. Businessmen, athletes, and Hollywood stars dot the pages, as do the insecure, the poor, the ostracized, and the vaguely disliked. (One caption reads, simply, “Losers know they’re losers but not why.”) Hartz focuses on the ways society motivates us to be winners or to perceive others as such. In one cartoon, two people regard a mansion and a sports car, with one saying to the other, “All my fame and fortune mean nothing unless my brother hates me for it.” In another, two statues of Michelangelo’s David stand side by side, one typically svelte and the other more realistically paunchy. The caption: “Sympathetic. Not Sympathetic.” In addition to cartoons, aphorisms appear throughout the book, some funny and some simply thoughtful. “Beauty and intelligence are considered essence, not ornament,” reads one. The cartoons—drawn by Jovic, Wolfe, and Ramos—are imbued with frolicsome energy. Appropriately, the entries aren’t all winners—some fail to elicit a laugh, and a few are just head-scratchers. The cartoons have a better success rate than the aphorisms, some of which feel bumper sticker–ready (“EQUATION: Status = achievement X marketing”) while others could have used another draft or two. There are plenty of gems here that ask the reader to consider the arbitrary or downright unjust manner in which winners and losers are chosen. The result is a sense of nihilism that is half liberating and half depressing. As one cartoon featuring a mournful picture of a teenage nerd against a black background reads: “And then they came for me, but there was no one to speak for me because why would anyone do that.”

A mixed bag of gags and witticisms revealing the hollowness of both victory and defeat.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79759-770-6

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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