Like catching up with a dear and funny friend, this insightful and irreverent book is a soothing balm for turbulent times.

SHIT, ACTUALLY

THE DEFINITIVE, 100% OBJECTIVE GUIDE TO MODERN CINEMA

Revisiting her early career as an acid-tongued film critic, New York Times columnist West deconstructs 22 blockbusters in this nostalgic, laugh-out-loud romp.

In the introduction, the author labels this collection “silly,” a frivolous work initially conceived as a ray of light for a fraught America. Despite being released into an irreparably altered world—not just due to the pandemic, but also “the demoralizing grind of public life under Donald Trump”—these breezy essays fulfill that promise. They are warmhearted, acutely self-aware, and surprisingly timely, providing insight into modern society through movies first sold on VHS. West rates each film against the Harrison Ford vehicle The Fugitive (“the only good movie”), leaping across genres, from Jurassic Park to Garden State to The Shawshank Redemption. Whether she is excoriating Love, Actually (“the apex of cynically vacant cash-grab sentimentality”), describing how the “best thing” about the Harry Potter series is that she loves to hate it, or discussing whether or not The Lion King’s Mufasa has any actual parenting skills beyond his deep voice, West uses hindsight to gain critical distance and set up her sidesplitting one-liners. The book’s breadth of targets allows for a wide canvas. For example, an essay on Reality Bites examines West's own teenage lusts and the dearth of realistic female role models in film while a treatise on The Santa Clause looks at the 1990s humor triumvirate of “lawyer jokes, hatred for psychiatrists, and your divorced parents getting back together." A number of the pieces were previously published online, and some of the jokes may seem crude to West neophytes. But the author uses frivolity and humor as entry points to discussions about racism, sexism, and our tendency to overlook the damage a story can do if it keeps us entertained. Other targets include Rush Hour, American Pie, Titanic, and The Rock.

Like catching up with a dear and funny friend, this insightful and irreverent book is a soothing balm for turbulent times.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-44982-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

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GOING THERE

The veteran newscaster reflects on her triumphs and hardships, both professional and private.

In this eagerly anticipated memoir, Couric (b. 1957) transforms the events of her long, illustrious career into an immensely readable story—a legacy-preserving exercise, for sure, yet judiciously polished and insightful, several notches above the fray of typical celebrity memoirs. The narrative unfolds through a series of lean chapters as she recounts the many career ascendency steps that led to her massively successful run on the Today Show and comparably disappointing stints as CBS Evening News anchor, talk show host, and Yahoo’s Global News Anchor. On the personal front, the author is candid in her recollections about her midlife adventures in the dating scene and deeply sorrowful and affecting regarding the experience of losing her husband to colon cancer as well as the deaths of other beloved family members, including her sister and parents. Throughout, Couric maintains a sharp yet cool-headed perspective on the broadcast news industry and its many outsized personalities and even how her celebrated role has diminished in recent years. “It’s AN ADJUSTMENT when the white-hot spotlight moves on,” she writes. “The ego gratification of being the It girl is intoxicating (toxic being the root of the word). When that starts to fade, it takes some getting used to—at least it did for me.” Readers who can recall when network news coverage and morning shows were not only relevant, but powerfully influential forces will be particularly drawn to Couric’s insights as she tracks how the media has evolved over recent decades and reflects on the negative effects of the increasing shift away from reliable sources of informed news coverage. The author also discusses recent important cultural and social revolutions, casting light on issues of race and sexual orientation, sexism, and the predatory behavior that led to the #MeToo movement. In that vein, she expresses her disillusionment with former co-host and friend Matt Lauer.

A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53586-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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