Enthusiastic and chockablock with varied examples but tightly bound by the ropes of convention.



A self-help book for those who yearn to be story writers.

Rubin has considerable experience in this arena—a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he is the founder of the writing studio Story 27 and has written for TV and theater—but little is novel here. He writes in conventional self-help format (chapters with identical subheadings, bullet points, continual encouragement) and employs informal diction throughout, including the final sentence: “You got this.” In one of the major sections, “How the Master Did It,” the author summarizes, sometimes quite extensively, a salmagundi of works including computer games, songs, short stories, novels, plays, films, TV scripts, and comic books. Among the many iconic authors Rubin cites are Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, and Toni Morrison as well as more current artists such as Quentin Tarantino and Tina Fey. Rubin’s point, well taken, is that great stories are similar in foundational ways, and he devotes most of the text to showing novices how to become adepts, if not maestros. The 27 chapters, introduced by quotes from the likes of Aristotle, Voltaire, Buddha, and others, are arranged into large themes—plot, character, setting, dialogue, etc.—and each has an urgent and/or encouraging title: “Drop the Hammer,” “Escalate Risk,” “Hunt Big Game,” “Peel the Onion,” “Confront Evil.” The prose is readable yet sprinkled with cliché (“getting into the appropriate mindset”) and platitude (“the more you do something, the better you get at it”). Rubin does display a wide range of reading, but he does not delve into language, mechanics, usage, ways to write a character’s thoughts, and so on. Maybe another volume is on the way? The author remains positive and encouraging throughout, but as most aspiring writers know, success is highly elusive.

Enthusiastic and chockablock with varied examples but tightly bound by the ropes of convention.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0716-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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

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