An astute and informed, if eclectic, assemblage of essays.

ESSAYS

An essay collection blends autobiography with broader observations about history, culture, and religion.

“We are a mystery to ourselves,” writes Giskin in this insightful volume, “so writing about oneself and one’s interests is both a revelatory act as well as a process of discovery.” The first two-thirds of the book’s 44 essays are autobiographical in nature, as the author offers vignettes from his childhood and observations about his own family, travels, and inner life. Having grown up in New York City in the early 1960s as his father completed a doctorate from Columbia University, Giskin delivers personal essays that effectively balance nostalgia and wit with poignant retrospective analyses on such topics as playgrounds, drive-in movies, and Halloween. An avid world traveler, the author offers readers nearly a dozen essays that use trips to Japan, Greece, Africa, and elsewhere as lenses through which to explore metaphysical concepts related to life, death, love, and humanity. The collection’s final third moves away from Giskin’s personal experiences and perspectives toward a broader commentary on culture, science, history, and philosophy. As a retired educator, the author has a solid grasp of art across genres and time periods, classical and modern philosophy and literature, and world religions. Essays in this section provide scholarly commentary, for instance, on the visual arts and include high-quality, color reproductions of various works. One piece provides an in-depth exploration of the poetry of Walt Whitman. Other essays analyze the poetry and art of World War I and critique Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History. Though an agnostic, Giskin, whose previous books on Chinese culture have been published by academic presses, is clearly influenced by Eastern spirituality and thought. A predilection toward concepts like Zen Buddhism, combined with the author’s American upbringing and deep knowledge of the Western canon of high culture, provides a unique, erudite perspective that thoughtful readers will appreciate. Alternately, Giskin’s “exercise of getting on paper things swarming about in my head” is at times disjointed, focusing on topics that are perhaps better suited for a separate collection.

An astute and informed, if eclectic, assemblage of essays.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-03-912280-2

Page Count: 342

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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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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