An animated, if overlong, memoir of growing up in the South.

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POSSUM TRACK CHRONICLES

Elks (Journeys Along the Quiet Path, 2002) recounts her childhood in the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina in this memoir.

The author writes that she likes to say she was named for 1960's Hurricane Donna, although that isn’t exactly true; when it comes to personal and family lore, she admits, she often opts for the most interesting version of a story. Born the middle child of teenage parents, Elks grew up in eastern North Carolina in the 1970s. She recounts memorable incidents of her early childhood (making mud pies, tormenting her siblings) and the strong personalities in her immediate and extended family. Everything seemed like an adventure, she writes—even her family’s house burning down in an accidental fire. As Elks grew, however, she says that she began to learn about the darker side of life, such as her carpenter father’s slow descent into alcoholism: “I know, I know...alcoholism is a disease,” Elks told her sister Wendy. “But isn’t it time he got the doctor to help him get better?” The author had to find a way to reconcile her positive, “magical” way of looking at the world with the multiplying disappointments that came with growing up. Elks writes in a colorful, conversational prose that showcases the grit and charm of the book’s rural Southern setting. For example, here’s her description of her grandmother's cooking collard greens: “They took many hours of preparation and tending to, so she made a big batch when she made any at all. She had gotten used to cooking for nine head of young’uns, so I guess old habits die hard.” The book feels a bit bloated at nearly 400 pages, particularly as many short chapters are simply episodic (and underwhelming) vignettes. The relationships between Elks and the various members of her family are well-drawn, however, and the deep affection that she feels for both the setting and the characters can be infectious at times. There are many, many memoirs about the toll that addiction takes on families, but Elks’ spunk and optimism help this one stand slightly above the crowd.

An animated, if overlong, memoir of growing up in the South.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5462-1187-7

Page Count: 386

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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