A captivating family account that delivers compelling, acutely observant writing.



A wife comes to terms with her husband’s troubled past in this memoir.

“You were a preservationist, and I needed preserving,” joked Vernon, Fairley’s future husband, reflecting on his motivation for asking her out on a date. When they met, Vern, who was 32 years the author’s senior, was struggling to cope with the tragic death of his 14-year-old son, Ben, who was shot accidentally while playing with a revolver. Fairley fell in love with Vern’s “quirkiness”; they married, and, three months later, on her 25th birthday, the author discovered that she was pregnant. Soon after, Vern announced that the son of a recently deceased friend would be coming to stay with them temporarily. Taking care of 11-year-old Stanislaus was not what Fairley had expected during pregnancy. The situation became yet more fractious when Stanislaus was found to be a disturbed child, setting his bed afire and stabbing the family dog. With Vern’s health in decline, the stress of caring for Stanislaus forced the couple to reassess their marriage. The author strives to understand her husband’s inner struggles and, in doing so, unpacks some startling “sealed memories.” Fairley’s memoir is part mystery, leaving the author (and the audience) to guess at Vern’s true motives for taking in Stanislaus. Fairley’s slow reveal makes for absorbing reading. Throughout the volume, she maps her shifting emotions with a candid clarity: “I felt myself slump. In that moment, I realized another reason I had resisted Stan’s presence so fiercely: time was a commodity in my relationship with Vern.” The author has an occasional tendency to share extraneous information. Describing their dog, Chippie, she notes: “He’d developed a severe anal sac problem and would scoot along the floor, leaving oily anal juice on everything.” Fairley’s scrupulous attention to detail is put to better use when capturing the ambience of small-town Ohio: “I loved the screened-in porch, the way it overlooked the old footbridge with the cast-iron street lamp….The old furnace pumped out heat that smelled of kerosene in the winter.” At its best, the author’s writing is evocative, and her story is both unique and intriguing. Despite the sporadic digressions, this is a book that many readers will find difficult to put down.

A captivating family account that delivers compelling, acutely observant writing.

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-067-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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