THE UNIDENTIFIED

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

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

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 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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GREENLIGHTS

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

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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

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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