A thoughtful, entertaining exploration of the joys and grittiness of country life.

FREEDOM FARM

A creative nonfiction work that mixes memories, family stories, and fanciful thoughts about the future.

Neves was raised on a farm in Freedom, Maine, as the third of four siblings and the only girl. Her early life was one of adventure and tenacious labor, most of which she seems to have enjoyed. Here, she presents a collection of essays divided into two sections, telling tales of life in Freedom, which encompasses her childhood and adolescence, and accounts of her time on a nonworking farm in Palermo, Maine, where she and her husband live with their four children. Readers soon discover that a simple tale, in Neves’ hands, has many parts, including musings about connections—between people and between people and nature. She also includes anecdotes from family lore, including the opening tale about a rebellious act by her father when he was a child in grade school: “Like many of my father’s stories,” Neves says, “this one has the texture of a well-constructed fable, driven by an undercurrent of vigilante justice, and a message of empowerment.” The author displays a similar sense of justice in these pieces, but she also questions, pulls apart, and analyzes actions and reactions of herself and others. She does so with empathy and occasional self-effacing, acerbic humor; for instance, while pondering her parents’ encouragement of independent thinking in their children, she notes that she’s a “freethinker”: “Not in the sense that freethinkers make decisions and form opinions based on reason and fact, but in the way that my thoughts and ideas were generally free from the constraints of reality.” In these pages, Neves reveals herself as a wordsmith whose long, twisty sentences are consistently enticing; one highlight is her story of a pig named Priscilla who was truly committed to her task of clearing weeds. Because memories can change over time, Neves says, she writes “in the hope that words have more power than things, that they will last at least as long as I do.”

A thoughtful, entertaining exploration of the joys and grittiness of country life.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-943424-62-7

Page Count: 155

Publisher: North Country Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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