A timely and disturbing study of flawed, dangerous thinking.

OFF THE EDGE

FLAT EARTHERS, CONSPIRACY CULTURE, AND WHY PEOPLE WILL BELIEVE ANYTHING

A Daily Beast reporter probes the relationship between flat Earth beliefs and the rise of modern conspiracy theories.

Before the pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and civil unrest changed the world, Weill regarded flat Eartherism as “something close to a joke.” Yet as the Trump administration and its penchant for “alternative facts” fed social and political turmoil at home and abroad, Weill was “stripped…of [the] smugness” she felt for believing that most people were grounded in reality. She looked more closely into the flat Eartherism she derided and discovered social parallels that intrigued as much as they unsettled. As the author notes, anti-globalism emerged out of the ashes of a failed socialist experiment—itself intended as a form of rebellion against the Industrial Revolution—in 19th century Britain. Weill attributes the persistence of this anti-scientific belief less to the delusions of crackpots like flat Earth movement founder Samuel Rowbotham and more to the idea that the conspiracy thinking in which flat Eartherism is grounded results when humans are faced with the incomprehensible and uncontrollable. Turning her attention to contemporary history, the author suggests how the internet—in particular, social media—has wrought havoc on truth by helping to disseminate disinformation. In turn, this has helped create a paranoid culture and “conspiratorial melting pot” in which Rowbotham’s flat Eartherism has not only flourished, but also “cross-pollinated” with everything from anti-vaccination advocates to QAnon conspiracy theories. Perhaps most unnerving of all of Weill’s observations is that conspiratorial movements and cults are “cousins”—both have dogmatic followers that not only “keep each other in line,” but also keep themselves “away from the outside world.” This provocative book is sure to inspire debate about conspiracy theories as well as how citizens of a fractured world can learn to overcome their fear of radical planetary change.

A timely and disturbing study of flawed, dangerous thinking.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64375-068-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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Both a practical and inspirational guide with special appeal for budding musicians.

HOW TO WRITE A SONG THAT MATTERS

A songwriter’s guide for those who are more concerned with making meaningful art than with commercial success.

As a recording artist, singer/songwriter, author, and leader of songwriting retreats, Williams has established a fruitful career on the periphery of the mainstream. In her latest book, following What I Found in a Thousand Towns, she distills her wisdom and experience to help others who have similar priorities. She also demonstrates how a great song comes about, how a songwriter develops her artistry, and how a song progresses from initial inspiration into something acceptable and possibly even exceptional. Through examples from her own songwriting and workshopping, Williams shows how a song can start from a familiar chord progression of the sound of certain words, even if the words don’t hold a specific meaning yet. Then there’s a spark of inspiration, for those who are receptive to it, which fuels a creative flame. Williams smoothly describes the process of “listening for cues and clues” to discover the focus of the song, who the narrator is, what a particular combination of verbal sounds and guitar progressions is trying to convey to the songwriter and to potential listeners—and why any of this matters. The author recognizes that there are many hunches and intuitions involved and that experience will help the songwriter learn how much to value the initial inspiration, when to remain true to the voice and when to question it, and how to incorporate feedback from others. Williams also shows how and where songs can make a wrong turn and how to get them back on course. Even those with no musical experience or aspirations will appreciate the author’s illumination of the mechanics of songcraft, and she is consistently encouraging. “However you join music with your lyrics,” she writes, “please, please, just jump over things in this book that don’t relate to your songwriting or that are intimidating in general.”

Both a practical and inspirational guide with special appeal for budding musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-306-92329-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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