Studded with good moments, but only diehard fans are likely to seek this one out.

THE SEEKERS

MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MUSICIANS (AND OTHER ARTISTS)

The Doors drummer serves up a mishmash of nostrums, memoir, and fan notes.

Densmore is no mere passing student of how beautiful things are put together. He has been pondering it for decades, and given the traumatic nature of the day, “the time has never been more right for writing a book that elucidates my lifelong commitment to the arts and creativity.” These sketches get some of that elucidation done, but the best parts of this collection of musings are the frequent quotations from his first two memoirs. New Age references fly thick here: The inspiration for the book may be Greek Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, but lesser saints come into play: “The muse is very psychic….Sometimes she blows the circuitry like in Janis Joplin’s case.” So do evocations of the Doors, and though something seems to have happened (perhaps just still being alive) to keep Robby Krieger from earning much room here, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek figure prominently. Sometimes Densmore lays down cringeworthy lines: “So early on Mr. Shankar had his creative impulses dipped in spiritual curry sauce of the highest caliber” is one of the more exceptional ones. The book succeeds when he lands on simple observations: “Musicians are ambassadors to the hidden world inside everyone.” “Music is a candle, lighting the way along the road toward the art of living.” There are also some charming moments, as when Densmore, now in his 70s, revels at meeting Willie Nelson, to whom he exclaimed, “It’s great to meet a musician who’s older than me!” And any aspiring rock musician can stand to learn from Densmore’s observations on how the rhythm section of a band works, affirming that the best guitarist in the world can’t save a band if the rhythm section is off, whereas a good rhythm section can make a mediocre guitarist sound at least tolerable.

Studded with good moments, but only diehard fans are likely to seek this one out.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-84623-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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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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