An intriguing mix of myths and monsters that lacks much of the inherent fun but should appeal to UFO and Bigfoot watchers.

THE UNIDENTIFIED

MYTHICAL MONSTERS, ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, AND OUR OBSESSION WITH THE UNEXPLAINED

A cultural historian digs into the mystique of “fringe topics like Atlantis, or cryp­tids (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and other associated ‘hidden’ animals), or UFOs, or ancient aliens.”

Traditionally, there has been no limit to the amount of theory, conjecture, and speculation that awestruck authors have heaped onto aliens, Bigfoot, or the lost civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria. But not so with Dickey, whose book Ghostland explored haunted places. Here, the author allows his Fort-ean subjects no quarter, eschewing the paranormal in favor of a steadfast adherence to earthbound explanations of the unknown. In Dickey's eyes, Sasquatch and the Yeti may not be the strange hairy outliers they have always been considered, but that does not make them any less captivating. What the author finds alluring about these particular cryptids has to do with another kind of phenomena entirely—namely, how they have been used in the sublimation and appropriation of Native cultures. “Not unlike sports mascots with their racist caricatures, or hippie boutiques selling dream catchers and peace pipes,” writes Dickey, “the Wild Man lore of the Chehalis and the Nepalese had become a way for white people to romanticize what they were destroying, and a way for disaffected members of the colonizers to find a kind of melancholic reflection in these endangered cultures.” Turning to Betty and Barney Hill’s harrowing tale of alien abduction on a dark New Hampshire road in 1961, Dickey quotes a UFO skeptic that the depiction of the otherworldly kidnappers as “gray” aliens was not fantastic but rather a “way out of the complicated racial politics of the 1960s.” Any true sense of wonder that the author exhibits is aimed at often inscrutable characters like Tom Slick, Charles Fort, and Madam Blavatsky, some of the leading purveyors of extraordinary hokum through the decades.

An intriguing mix of myths and monsters that lacks much of the inherent fun but should appeal to UFO and Bigfoot watchers.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55756-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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