A sincere, poignant synthesis of memoir and social history of a troubled time.



Evocative family history set against the brutality and transformation of the Jim Crow South.

In his debut, Pulitzer Prize–winning Birmingham News journalist Archibald delivers a complex, fraught exploration of “the complicit and conspiratorial south I never came to see until I was fully grown.” Descended from multiple generations of Methodist preachers, the author focuses on his father, Rev. Robert—as represented by family memories and his archived sermons—with a mixture of pride and exasperation, recalling his wisdom and kindness and lamenting his glacial approach to acknowledging the moral wrongs of segregation. Robert’s genteel struggle with the horrific racial violence of 1960s Alabama seems emblematic of both a generational moment and transformations in public spiritual narrative. Archibald tracks how his father’s sermons at first reluctantly broached the moral evils embodied by the Birmingham church bombing, the violence of Bull Connor, and the callousness of George Wallace. “It was clear he was not the only preacher struggling to find his voice,” writes the author, “stuck between the Bible and a hot place.” Archibald demonstrates how Robert’s struggles reflected the larger landscape, how “the church was in conflict nationally....Alabama Methodists also condemned preachers who dared to participate in civil rights demonstrations, saying it wasn’t their place.” The author recalls fascinating anecdotes of ordinary people taking risky stands against the status quo. When his father finally advocated for civil rights from the pulpit, “he was finding a voice, even if it was as halting and hesitant as racial progress in the South.” Archibald grapples further with this challenging legacy, including the history of his slave-owning ancestors and his beloved grandfather’s predilection for blackface performance. Ultimately, the author ruefully concludes, “I guess evil is hardest to see when it’s all you know in your time, whatever time that might be.” He also gratefully notes that a Black preacher recalled that Robert “was on the right side of history."

A sincere, poignant synthesis of memoir and social history of a troubled time.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65811-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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