Canton’s enthusiasm is admirable, but his roots tend to tangle.

THE OAK PAPERS

A daily journal in the company of an oak tree.

Canton, who teaches a masters course in “wild writing” at the University of Essex, is keen to locate the connections among literature, landscape, and the environment. But unlike his countryman Robert Macfarlane, Canton takes a more ethereal approach. In his latest book, he explores the strange sense of attachment he has to an 800-year-old tree known as the Honywood Oak on the Marks Hall Estate in northern Essex, in whose embrace he finds calm and contentment. The author reveres oaks above all, showcasing an appealing but excessively Romantic appreciation for these stately trees and ascribing to them significant powers and cognitive abilities. He gazes at old stumps and mourns felled oaks as if they were divine eminences, lending them a spiritual aura. Canton is highly observant, especially of bird species, and his descriptions are often lovely, but they also sometimes take on a purple hue. Within the umbra of the tree, inside the drip line, he is all giddy fascination, bewitched. While his enchantment is initially contagious, it becomes tiresome. Canton deals with the same tree for 120 consecutive pages, ruminating in a repetitive monologue before finally turning his gaze to another tree. The author is more engaging when he comes down from the canopy to relate the history of humanity’s relationship with oaks in shipbuilding and construction as well as literature and myth. When he confines himself to history and custom, the text is absorbing, with echoes of Walden. “Was there a time in some ancient prehistoric world when the creatures did not flee before us?” he asks. “Was there a time when humans did not strike fear and alarm into the natural world around them?” Canton is highly literate though rather at pains to show it. Eventually, even he begins to question his insistence on anthropomorphizing, which he does too often.

Canton’s enthusiasm is admirable, but his roots tend to tangle.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303794-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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