A well-written biography reveals less-familiar aspects of the life of the famed inventor.



A writing teacher shows why Alexander Graham Bell “went down in Deaf history as the culture’s great enemy” and examines his enduring influence.

Bell’s invention of the telephone has eclipsed some of his quirkier traits, such as his habit of celebrating his triumphs by doing a Mohawk war dance that he learned from Indigenous people after his family moved from Scotland to Canada. More significantly, the telephone has overshadowed his early work as a teacher of the deaf and his steadfast view that they should learn to speak rather than sign. Booth, a hearing author who was raised in a mixed hearing/deaf family, expands the picture with a respectful yet critical biography that draws on scholarly research and her years of communicating with deaf relatives through signing. She casts Bell as a well-intentioned teacher who nonetheless did lasting harm by viewing deafness as a “defect” and by championing “oralism” (learning to speak) when research showed the greater benefits of “manualism” (signing) or “combinism” (using both methods), the approach favored by Edward Miner Gallaudet and others. Booth skillfully recaps signal events of Bell’s youth in Edinburgh, his down-to-the-wire battle with Elisha Gray to patent the telephone, his marriage to his deaf student Mabel Hubbard and subsequent American citizenship, and his friendships with Helen Keller and others. She also links his work to the continuing “institutional oppression” of the deaf. In one of a number of potentially controversial stances, the author argues that cochlear implants “can be a helpful tool for deaf people, but they are not a cure” and that some implant education programs are a modern version of the oralism favored by Bell, which she believes insufficiently considered the views of the deaf. At a time when “less than 8 percent of deaf children grow up with regular sign language access,” this ardent book is likely to reignite debates over what constitutes justice for the Deaf community.

A well-written biography reveals less-familiar aspects of the life of the famed inventor.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6709-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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