An attractive coffee-table album of canine photos with a vibrant and spiritually uplifting setting.

SENTIENT BEINGS IN THE KINGDOM OF BHUTAN

A photography book celebrates dogs and their cherished status in a Buddhist society.

Chambers, a world traveler, salutes the isolated Himalayan nation of Bhutan for its natural beauty and the “vibrations” imparted to its inhabitants by “the light and teachings of the Buddha.” Chief among these teachings is a reverence for all beings capable of feeling and suffering, especially dogs. The Bhutanese, she writes, believe that canines contain the reincarnated souls of human ancestors; thus, killing even strays is forbidden because it will prevent “that being from living out its Karma.” The book mainly consists of the author’s color photographs of Bhutanese dogs that indeed seem to have it pretty good. They loll happily about, resting on sidewalks, staircases, mountain pathways, and rocky outcroppings—and in gardens and fields and outside temples—lying unconscious on their sides or surveying the world in Sphinx-like postures of alert repose, occasionally allowing a human to pet them. The mutts are a motley black and white and tan, ears pointed or floppy, some of them embodying Buddhist virtues according to the captions. “Attentiveness” is illustrated by a dog with its ear cocked; “trust” by a pooch sleeping peacefully under a car in disregard of the danger of being run over; and “love” by an adorable canine gazing into the camera with golden, liquid eyes. Some photos have other subjects, including karmically underprivileged pack mules and, of course, humans, who appear in a number of portraits featuring Bhutanese laypeople and monks in colorful traditional garments. The images skillfully showcase the variety and grandeur of the Bhutanese terrain, with its majestic snow-capped peaks, wide skies, piney hillsides, and verdant valleys. Chambers’ photos are notable for a slight blurriness and an unusual color palette, with the green of foliage being washed out while throbbing blues dominate in clothing, distant landscapes, shadows, and even black fur. It’s a striking effect that looks almost ultraviolet and gives many of the photos an eerie charge. Her compositions are not the most inspired—just pooches lounging around—but they will look like nirvana to some connoisseurs of canine glory.

An attractive coffee-table album of canine photos with a vibrant and spiritually uplifting setting.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982232-70-2

Page Count: 66

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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