A lyrical, tender linguistic balm.

ON CONNECTION

A critically acclaimed poet and recording artist reflects on the relationship between creativity and human connection.

In a book that Tempest wrote in response to a publisher's request for "a work of non-fiction for a series of short pamphlets,” they avoid political statements about connection in a divided world and focus instead on “how immersion in creativity can bring us closer to each other and help us cultivate greater self-awareness.” Drawing on 20 years of experience as a spoken word artist, author Tempest titles each essay to reflect a component or element of a spoken word or musical performance. In "Set Up," they suggest that creativity in all domains of life allows individuals to "access and feel connection [with]” everything from ideas and emotions to other individuals. Disconnection, which Tempest discusses in "Sound Check,” arises from a "numbness" that serves as "a logical response" to the onslaught of modern life. In "Doors," the author describes their own creative journey and reveals how poetry became the avenue for connection with others, including a homeless man who forced Tempest to look past their own prejudices and cultivate a deeper understanding of the inequities of life and chance. In later sections, the author reflects on performance. In "Going Out There," for example, they suggest how social media has transformed performance art into a mindless act done for approval rather than communion. “Anything we think, feel, witness, imagine or partake in becomes ammunition for the next pithy tweet, political statement, glamorous image or sarcastic caption,” writes the author. For Tempest, connection only comes about through conscious artistic effort, and when it happens, it brings together performer and spectator "in a communal feeling that takes the whole room or none of us.” With its emphasis on empathy and the importance of being present, this slender book, which will appeal mostly to readers with an interest in mindfulness, is a welcome tonic to the fractured dissonance of modern life.

A lyrical, tender linguistic balm.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-571-35402-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Faber & Faber

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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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