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 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 sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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