A flawed yet affecting portrait of a vicious, repetitive cycle.

THE BIG HURT

A MEMOIR

A memoir of two difficult affairs that bookended the author’s life.

Los Angeles–based writer Schickel was a teenager when her divorced, distracted parents sent her to a “progressive, bohemian boarding school from 1978 to 1982.” She was doing well—on track to graduate—when, without warning, she was expelled from the school following an “affair” with a teacher. In her second book, the author revisits the traumatic events of her adolescence and also describes the affair she had decades later, when she was married with two daughters. The second affair—with a thinly disguised James Ellroy (whom she refers to as Sam Spade, the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon)—repeated some of the abusive patterns of the first, though it took Schickel many years to recognize that her teacher had, in fact, abused her. The memoir is well written, and the two intertwining stories are well-structured. However, the author is repetitive about certain elements (her sex life with Ellroy) and sparse on others, like how she finally came to reconcile the two major traumas of her life. “Rather than tell the truth about my past,” she writes, “it would be easier for me to sacrifice my reputation, my career, my marriage, my closest friendships, my children, and my identity to become his lover.” Schickel is a fluid writer and can be funny, occasionally hilarious, but when she strains toward humor amid a painful recollection, the humor often falls flat. Still, her narrative timing is often spot-on. For example, when she finally tells her husband about Ellroy, he asks where she would like to go on vacation. “Nowhere,” she replies. “You don’t want to go on vacation?” he asks. “No.” “Okay, then what do you want?” “I want a divorce, Paul.” That moment carries both weight and wit, and the scenes in which Schickel digs the deepest leave the longest-lasting impact—if only there were more of them.

A flawed yet affecting portrait of a vicious, repetitive cycle.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-306-92505-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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