Risks and rewards abound in Jornet’s tutorial of how to experience the outdoors.

ABOVE THE CLOUDS

HOW I CARVED MY OWN PATH TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD

A Catalan endurance athlete recounts his experiences and how they have shaped his worldview.

As Jornet, only 32, unwinds his exciting life story—tales of mountain climbing, ski mountaineering, ultralong-distance running, mountain biking, and “skyrunning”—he also reflects on the effects of his adventures on his soul. The book, he writes, is “not about what I have achieved but what I have experienced, about feeling at peace with my values when I do something and embracing the possibility of change and failure as a reward for my soul.” (To view his many achievements, check out his Wikipedia page.) The author’s prose is unadorned, and while his insights on the adventurous life aren’t groundbreaking, he successfully brings readers directly into his dangerous predicaments on the mountain. “Climbing a mountain is just putting your life in danger to try to reach the summit, then coming down again,” he writes. “Clearly, this puts you in a category closer to stupidity than heroism.” It’s evident that competition with others is important to him, but he is more interested in testing his own abilities and keeping up with the level he demands of himself. For Jornet, there is nothing more glorious than just getting out there and running or biking or climbing; his virtuous cycle is to eat, train, eat, train, sleep, and repeat. “We must be the ones to manage our own bodies…they should always be under our control,” he writes. Ultimately, the author wants to attain a “fleeting moment that ends with a sigh,” to feel his “love for the mountains with total madness”—as euphoria or an “orgasm of adrenaline.” It is not just an altered state, but a place of complete freedom. “Mountains,” he writes, “are (still) a space of freedom, where lawlessness reigns for the good of everyone.”

Risks and rewards abound in Jornet’s tutorial of how to experience the outdoors.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296503-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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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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