A well-researched, sharp portrait of the “protagonists in an inside-out story about the second American revolution."

THE AGITATORS

THREE FRIENDS WHO FOUGHT FOR ABOLITION AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS

The executive editor of the New Yorker tells the stories of three female friends who defied the social conventions of their day to fight for women's rights and abolition.

Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright, and Frances A. Seward made history as females who fought against the subjection of women and slaves in the 19th century. Wickenden braids together the intersecting threads of their lives and accomplishments into a highly readable, instructive historical narrative. The daughter of Nantucket Quakers who opposed slavery and sister of early feminist Lucretia Mott, Wright came to know Seward in 1839 while residing in Auburn, New York. Although Seward lived a life of privilege, the two women bonded over many shared interests, including social reform and an “antipathy to pretentiousness.” Wright soon became involved in the abolitionist movement and made her home “a station on the underground railroad.” In 1849, Tubman escaped from her master in Maryland and made her way to Philadelphia. There, she met Mott, who actively “preached against slavery and lambasted slavers and clergymen for citing the Bible to justify their sins.” Wickenden convincingly speculates that Mott introduced Tubman to both Wright and Seward in the late 1840s. The three quickly formed friendships that united them across race and class in a common fight against White patriarchal oppression. The author sets their stories against a tumultuous backdrop of events—e.g., the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 and the "bleeding" Kansas massacres of the 1850s—that not only defined the revolutionary spirit of the era, but also caused divisions that still haunt the American soul today. Yet in the strength of the bonds forged among Wright, Seward, and Tubman, Wickenden offers hope for a healing of old wounds and a future where "the dignity and equality of all Americans" is an authentic reality.

A well-researched, sharp portrait of the “protagonists in an inside-out story about the second American revolution."

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6073-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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 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 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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