A hyperbolic but entertaining defense of intoxication via alcohol.

DRUNK

HOW WE SIPPED, DANCED, AND STUMBLED OUR WAY TO CIVILIZATION

A spirited look at drinking.

A professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, Slingerland draws on archaeology, anthropology, history, neuroscience, psychopharmacology, social psychology, literature, poetry, and genetics to argue—insistently and repetitively— for the social, cultural, and psychological benefits of getting drunk. “Far from being an evolutionary mistake,” he writes, “chemical intoxication helps solve a number of distinctively human challenges: enhancing creativity, alleviating stress, building trust, and pulling off the miracle of getting fiercely tribal primates to cooperate with strangers.” He expounds at length on humans’ need for creativity, culture, and cooperation, which, he claims, alcohol enhances. “In many ways,” he writes, alcohol “is the perfect drug. It is easy to dose, and its cognitive effects stable across individuals. Best of all, these effects wax and wane predictably and are relatively short-lived.” Alcohol consumption, he asserts, preceded agriculture and, in fact, “provided the spark that allowed us to form truly large-scale groups, domesticate increasing numbers of plants and animals, accumulate new technologies, and thereby create the sprawling civilizations that have made us the dominant mega-fauna on the planet.” While Slingerland concedes that alcohol may have detrimental physical effects, such as liver damage, he asserts that such costs must be weighed against its “venerable role as an aid to creativity, contentment, and social solidarity.” The author acknowledges, however, that this solidarity excludes those who do not drink for health or religious reasons and often excludes women, as well. As far as the role of alcohol in sexual assault and rape, Slingerland writes that these unsavory behaviors are “driven by patriarchal or misogynist social norms rather than the ethanol molecule itself.” In the final chapter, the author cautions against imbibing distilled spirits and drinking “outside of the traditional context of ritual and social controls,” contradicting his earlier assertion that many artists and writers “unleashed” their creativity by drinking hard liquor, alone.

A hyperbolic but entertaining defense of intoxication via alcohol.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-45338-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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 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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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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BROKEN (IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY)

The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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