A mixed bag of mostly common-sense advice on how to better appreciate the theater and poetry.

MINI MUSINGS

MINIATURE THOUGHTS ON THEATRE AND POETRY

A cornucopia of “miniature essays” on literary topics.

In the preface, Canadian poet and longtime freelance critic Garebian explains that he got the idea for this book from playwright Sarah Ruhl’s 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write (2014). He doesn’t quite reach 100, but he follows her formula of writing a page or two, or even less, giving the slim book a cleaning-out-the-desk feeling. This often witty but uneven collection, a “breezy conversation with myself and interested readers,” speaks to some of Garebian’s “curiosities and obsessions” about the theater (acting, plays, playwrights) and poetry (on reading it, genres, theory, and practice). The author admires Canadian actor William Hutt, a “theatre giant of enormous skill and stature,” comparing him to Laurence Olivier—a master of “rhythm, pacing, and mood”—and Marlon Brando. An actor himself, Garebian champions the importance of community theater and recounts some of his own performances. He slyly notes that “great acting often demands great feet.” For the author, the often “misunderstood and misjudged” Edward Albee was one of America’s greatest playwrights. Garebian believes too many English teachers “would rather not teach” poetry at all. Their “lack of enthusiasm,” he writes, “filters down to their hapless students.” Unlike some overly academic, “deconstructive” critics of poetry, Garebian eschews “using a lot of learned lumber and a great deal of corny, contrived examples” to make his points. He introduces readers to unusual poetic forms such as found poems, collages, the cento, oulipo, and lipogram, as well as grim Japanese death poems. Garebian admires the “use of political consciousness as a volatile element of poetics” in Amiri Baraka and other militant poets. He also worries, “Can There Be Poetry After Donald Trump.” A lackluster piece excoriating poetry readings is just plain curmudgeonly.

A mixed bag of mostly common-sense advice on how to better appreciate the theater and poetry.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77183-534-3

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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