Wisdom, a modicum of modesty, and delicious gossip make for an entertaining memoir.


A versatile actor recounts his life’s work.

At 75, award-winning actor Cox looks back on a long career in theater, movies, and TV, most recently in HBO’s Succession. He grew up in Dundee, Scotland, the youngest of five children, “besieged by the forces of tribalism and the Catholic faith.” When he was 8, his father died, leaving the family “dirt poor” and his mother suicidal. “I don’t believe that you have to live through tragedy in order to portray it,” Cox reflects, “but it does help clarify things for you.” At 17, while enrolled at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he attended dress rehearsals at the National Theatre, watching the likes of Glenda Jackson, Peter O’Toole, Laurence Olivier, and Maggie Smith. “Witnessing this kind of magic,” writes the author, made him yearn to be part of that world. From working odd jobs at the Dundee Repertory Theatre, he rose to eminence on all of London’s major stages. Cox portrays with sly wit the actors he admires (Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, among them) and those he does not (Sylvester Stallone, Michael Gambon) and the many directors he worked with, including the “consummate cineaste” Spike Lee, diffident Woody Allen, Royal Shakespeare Company founder Peter Hall, and titan John Schlesinger, whose Julius Caesar, writes the author, “was a misbegotten nightmare if ever there was one.” When Hollywood beckoned, Cox happily left England: “I went from being a lead actor on the London stage to a supporting turn in Hollywood, and I did it with a big smile on my face.” Besides chronicling his career, the author is forthright about his shortcomings as a husband and father. Above all, he extolls the exhausting, energizing thrill of performing: “You never stop wanting to show off, working out that insecurity, expiating yourself of your guilt,” and basking in the audience’s acclaim.

Wisdom, a modicum of modesty, and delicious gossip make for an entertaining memoir.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-0729-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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 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 fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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