A skillfully written self-help work that takes an offbeat approach to its subject.

A MYTHIC SISTERHOOD

THE GODDESS WAY TO COURAGE AND CLARITY AND GRACE

A psychologist uses ancient Greek goddesses as archetypes of human behavior.

In this debut psychology book, Escher applies the concept of Jungian archetypes to a collection of classical deities, specifically aiming to explain to female readers how their inner Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, and Demeter shape their behaviors and emotions. Persephone, for instance, “finds the seeds of strength in the victim’s story,” while Artemis “wastes no time with emotional pirates.” Escher illustrates the archetypes with her own stories from more than three decades of work as a therapist, showing how various traits can help or hinder women throughout their lives: “Don’t think for one minute that once you make the changes you need to make for yourself that everyone will cheer.” In the book’s construction of the archetype concept, a woman may embody some or all of the goddesses’ characteristics at different times and benefit from understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Over the course of the book, Escher does an excellent job of connecting archetypal characteristics to specific actions and beliefs, and she shows how a woman’s embrace of archetypes can have wide-ranging implications in her life. Each chapter includes questions for reflection, designed to help readers understand the role of archetypes in her own life. In the book’s final section, Escher tells her own story, describing “the highlights and low points of my life as the goddess archetypes had their way with me” and how she has learned from her experiences and developed a deeper understanding of herself.

Escher is a strong writer, and as a result, her book is highly readable and often amusing, as when she notes that “Hera was the switchboard operator who scheduled my wifely duties.” Her evident passion for the archetype concept and her confidence in its viability gives her prose a sense of power and authority throughout. Readers who are interested in exploring their inner selves will find useful tools for self-assessment in this book. It does have its limitations, however; with the exception of portions of the chapter on Artemis, Escher often addresses the book to a heterosexual audience, as when she writes, “A creative man is thrilled to have an Aphrodite woman like you in his life, a true mirror of his anima.” There are also several minor errors, such as a conflation of the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and occasional misspellings (“Alpha Romero”; “Kathryn Hepburn”); these are distracting, but they don’t ultimately detract from the book’s overall message. It’s evident that Escher has thought deeply about the archetypes that she discusses, and that she draws on a substantial reservoir of experience and study in the field of psychology. Readers familiar with New Age–style self-help texts, in particular, will likely find its approach to self-knowledge effective and illuminating, and its frequent questions will inspire productive discussion. Those searching for a female-centered, intuition-driven approach to understanding relationships, decision-making, and emotions will find it useful.

A skillfully written self-help work that takes an offbeat approach to its subject.

Pub Date: July 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-49628-3

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 13, 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 conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

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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