A sharp-eyed and disturbing chronicle.

GATECRASHER

HOW I HELPED THE RICH BECOME FAMOUS AND RUIN THE WORLD

An Australian-born New York Times social columnist dishes on celebrities and wealthy elites while offering his take on the modern relationship between fame and money.

In 1998, Widdicombe left Sydney to pursue a new life in New York City. By day, he sold hot dogs at a downtown kiosk; by night, he sneaked into celebrity parties where he learned “the three golden rules” of gate-crashing: “dress the part, act like you belong, and always be ready to sail with the tide.” His early journalistic work involved covering—and sometimes gleefully skewering—the New York fashion industry. Widdicombe took another job at a photography gallery patronized by one of the Koch brothers, who discreetly propositioned him at a dinner party. As the author’s network grew, so did his access to the rich and famous. When a British daytime talk show expressed interest in transforming a column Widdicombe wrote into a television show, the author was asked to meet with the show’s production company head, Elisabeth Murdoch, at her father Rupert’s penthouse. The show never aired; but the author’s next gig landed him on the “Page Six” gossip beat at the Murdoch-owned New York Post. There, he had the opportunity to observe firsthand how “immense wealth was rebranding itself not as some arbitrary privilege…but as a bold lifestyle choice.” His work there and at such entertainment outlets as Showbiz Tonight and TMZ led him to posit the ingenious theory that it was heiress Paris Hilton who, at the turn of the century, began the trend of “performing [wealth] for the purpose of gaining celebrity.” This witty and insightful book suggests how the gossip journalism meant as entertainment has not only diminished “the impact of shame in public life.” It has also led to a grab for celebrity among America’s elites, who are using the fame they once eschewed to get “more of everything.”

A sharp-eyed and disturbing chronicle.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982128-83-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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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