The crystalline quality to these extraordinary essays confirms Diski as one of the most talented writers of her generation.



A collection of essays by a master of the form.

Between 1993 and her death in 2016, Diski wrote several hundred essays for the London Review of Books—some book reviews, some personal pieces, “reflections on the world and its stories for the most part,” according to Wilmers, longtime editor of the LRB, who selected the essays for this masterful new collection of her work. In nearly all of the pieces, Diski’s voice is sharp, wry, and entirely her own. Writing about Sonia Orwell, she notes, “there must be people who, during their lifetime, get their minds right enough not to feel bitterness as the end looms and they realise that nothing much else is going to happen to them apart from death.” She goes on: “But not many, surely?” Diski’s interests ranged from Jeffrey Dahmer to Princess Diana to her own arachnophobia. Whatever the topic, her fierce intelligence and formidable wit are always on display. Particularly moving is “A Feeling for Ice,” which Diski later expanded into a book, Skating to Antarctica (1999). She describes both a trip to Antarctica and her difficult childhood, and the connections she draws are surprising and profound. As Wilmer observes in the introduction, Diski “liked blankness of all kinds: white surfaces, uneventful days….A place that had never been looked at and never would be was best of all.” However, in essays on celebrity worship, tabloids, and pop culture, Diski also wrote about the kind of bustling chaos that seemed to have become emblematic of contemporary life. Here, too, the author’s prose has a crispness and clarity of expression that have been rarely matched. Within a single sentence she can exude both a seemingly effortless elegance and a fearless iconoclasm. For writers and readers alike, this new volume is a tremendous gift.

The crystalline quality to these extraordinary essays confirms Diski as one of the most talented writers of her generation.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5266-2190-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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 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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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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