Short on artistic insights but large on life.

THE GENTLE BARBARIAN

The esteemed Czech writer offers up an affectionate portrait of a little-known Czech visual artist.

Originally published in 1974 as a samizdat book in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, Hrabal’s impressionistic, brief look at his eccentric, boisterous artist friend Vladimír Boudník (1924-1968) is now available in English thanks to Wilson’s fine translation. In this brief look at Boudník’s life, he employs some of the artist’s “methods”—e.g., “leave the text exposed, like an excavated street,” and fill it with “fast-flowing, tossed-off sentences and words.” He recalls when he and Boudník, who “suffered…acutely from hypochondria and hysteria, lived in rooms next to each other in a building in Libeň that they called the Embankment of Eternity; they yelled and argued back and forth about the mysteries of creativity. A “master of tactile imagination,” Boudník created a lithographic art form he called Explosionalism, a process by which he would take random stains and spatters and blotches and turn them into recognizable images.” The “overheated furnace of his brain,” Hrabal writes, “found creativity in disorder.” Working at a steel mill, Boudník was “transfixed” by the grinding machines, “enthralled by what he was seeing and what his imagination was making of it.” The author is clearly impressed by “how beautifully structured Vladimir’s graphic art is, how grounded it is,” even when Boudník anointed himself and his etched metal plates “with his own semen as he worked.” The narrative, more about their relationship than a critical discussion of Boudník’s art, is replete with humorous and lavish personal anecdotes about surviving during a politically repressive time. Sometimes joined by their poet friend Egon Bondy, they would walk, talk, argue, drink excessive amounts of beer, and engage in outlandish adventures, which Hrabal fondly recounts with extravagant glee and warmth. Wilson includes Hrabal’s “A Letter to Attendees at an Exhibition” and an illuminating afterword about the book’s publishing history.

Short on artistic insights but large on life.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2858-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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