by Helena Dea Bala ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2020
A book that focuses appealingly on the visceral complexities of our private lives.
Anthology of dramatic first-person testimonials collected by a driven author for whom a personal pastime became a public obsession.
This book reflects the website CraigslistConfessional.com, which Bala developed due to dissatisfaction with her demanding career as an attorney and lobbyist. She describes her work as “a project about hearing and seeing what others don’t—about pulling back the curtain that separates our secretive inner lives from our perfectly curated outer lives. My ‘job’ is to listen when no one else will.” At first, she was only seeking mutual catharsis; eventually, “I amended my original Craigslist ad to include a plan: I wanted to write these stories down and hopefully, some day, publish them.” She was so determined to pursue this that she curtailed her career to do so. The resulting volume is organized broadly, along the themes of “Love,” “Regret,” “Loss,” “Identity,” and “Family,” with 40 subjects across a spectrum of gender, social class, and age. Bala deftly captures these diverse voices—some gloomy, others hopeful—resulting in lively, empathetic biographical tableaux. She stays attuned to her anonymous subjects’ lived experiences, following arcs that sometimes lead from deviance or despair to redemption. One former prisoner notes after 15 years’ imprisonment, “the outside is cruel. It doesn’t care if you did the crime or you deserved your punishment, or you served your time.” Many stories concern flight from addiction or abuse, such as that of a young woman still ashamed of her years as an escort during college: “I was constantly trying to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad.” Episodes of loss include an older man reeling from the death of an alcoholic wife (“Up until the very end, I thought I could cure her”) and mothers haunted by the sudden deaths of children. Though some tales are maudlin or follow predictable patterns, readers should respond to the redemptive twist or optimism that often appears in the stories she has collected.A book that focuses appealingly on the visceral complexities of our private lives.
Pub Date: July 7, 2020
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: April 19, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.
Awards & Accolades
The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.
Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.
Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020
Page Count: 272
Publisher: Celadon Books
Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020
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by Jimmy Buffett ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1998
Lg. Prt. 0-375-70288-1 This first nonfiction outing from singer/songwriter Buffett (Where Is Joe Merchant?, 1992, etc.) is more food for his Parrothead fans, but there is some fine writing along with the self-revelation. Half autobiography and half travelogue, this volume recounts a trip by Buffett and his family to the Caribbean over one Christmas holiday to celebrate the writer’s 50th birthday. Buffett is a licensed pilot, and his personal weakness is for seaplanes, so it’s primarily in this sort of craft that the family’s journey takes place. While giving beautiful descriptions of the locales to which he travels (including a very attractive portrait of Key West, from which he sets out), Buffett intersperses recollections of his first, short-lived marriage, his experiences in college and avoiding the Vietnam draft, and his brief employment at Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau before becoming a professional musician. In the meantime, he carries his reader seamlessly through the Cayman Island, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Amazon basin, and Trinidad and Tobago. Buffett shows that he is a keen observer of Latin American culture and also that he can “pass” in these surroundings when he needs to. It’s perhaps on this latter point that this book finds its principal weakness. Buffett tends toward preachiness in addressing his mostly landlubber readers, as when he decries the seeming American inability to learn a second language while most Caribbeans can speak English; elsewhere he attacks “ugly Americans out there making it harder for us more-connected-to-the-local-culture types.” On the other hand, he seems right on the money when he observes that the drug war of the 1980s did little to stop trafficking in the area and that turning wetlands into helicopter pads for drug agents isn’t going to offer any additional help. Both Parrotheads and those with a taste for the Caribbean find something for their palates here. (Author tour)
Pub Date: July 1, 1998
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998
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