A rich trove for hardcore Sedaris fans, though no more personally revealing than his well-shaped essays.


DIARIES (2003-2020)

The second volume of diaries by Sedaris (after Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002), who navigates the early 21st century wealthier but still bemused.

The flashpoints of the modern era—the Iraq War, Ferguson, Trump, Covid-19—pop up throughout these entries, but mainly so the author can sail past them with his usual irreverence. For example: “When the pandemic hit, my first thought wasn’t Oh, those poor dying people but What about my airline status?” His bottomless capacity to make everything about him doesn’t read as selfishness or ignorance, though; as with all good comics, the particulars of his life are stand-ins for everybody’s foibles and frustrations. Traveling the world for readings, Sedaris takes note of every culture’s peculiarities, from spitting on the street in Tokyo to offensive insults to language quirks—e.g., Tagalog is like “English on quaaludes.” Sedaris treats his own life as a kind of foreign country, too. After moving from his longtime home in France to England, he began his hobby of picking up litter (documented in Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls), and the reactions of his neighbors, not to mention the trash itself, provide comic fodder. Family matters were trickier during this period: His troubled sister, Tiffany, killed herself, and his elderly but resilient father still treated him like a failure. Because Sedaris traveled all over the world during this stretch, the tone and form of the diaries shift; he’s sometimes glib, sometimes contemplative, sometimes content just to catalog funny stuff he overhears. So for better or worse, he’s a humorist who’ll go anywhere. This book contains one of the best jokes about the Crucifixion you’re likely to hear, along with a few subpar quips: “To honor the death of Marcel Marceau I observed a minute of silence."

A rich trove for hardcore Sedaris fans, though no more personally revealing than his well-shaped essays.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-55879-2

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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 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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