A fresh perspective on modernism.


A study of the anti-patriarchal women who played essential roles in the development of 20th-century modernism.

Souhami focuses on four women, and their Parisian community, who combined to create a "revolutionary force" in the fight to break away from 19th-century norms in the art world: Sylvia Beach, who founded Shakespeare and Company bookstore and published Ulysses in 1922; Bryher (born Annie Winifred Ellerman), a novelist and influential arts patron who funded modern writing and film; Natalie Barney, whose intimate circle became "the sapphic centre of the Western world”; and Gertrude Stein, who “furthered the careers of modernist painters and writers and broke the mould of English prose.” Though not all identified as lesbian, all had women lovers. Life partners and many torrid affairs add up to quite a cast of characters, including portrait artist Romaine Brooks and author Djuna Barnes. Beach's support of modernist literature, most notably Joyce, was crucial. Bryher, who "felt trapped in the wrong body," was "a rock" for her partner, the poet H.D. Barney, who proudly declared herself a lesbian and was "transparent about same-sex desire in a repressed and repressive age." Ironically, Stein, whose achievements in modernism were the greatest of the four, was the most traditional in her domestic life with Alice B. Toklas, the "wife for me.” Souhami effectively shows how "lesbians of the era, to flourish in their self-styled lives, needed to free themselves from domination by men,” but too much of the book describes those very relations—e.g., Beach and Joyce. Still, the author keeps the life stories lively, and because everyone in avant-garde Paris knew each other (many through love affairs), the four narratives often intersect in interesting ways. Souhami presents these readable biographies in a series of bite-sized portions, each with its own catchy header, and the author displays a talent for choosing intriguing quotes from her subjects. For example, from the "energetically polyamorous" Barney: "I am a lesbian. One need not hide it nor boast of it, though being other than normal is a perilous advantage."

A fresh perspective on modernism.

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78669-487-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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