An often humorous, occasionally poignant reflection on growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.



A retired judge and baby boomer reflects on his adolescent years.

A former District Court judge, Munger has spent his retirement writing an impressive number of books, from mysteries and short stories to biographies and essay collections. In this, his most intimate work, he looks introspectively at his years as a child, teenager, and young adult in 1960s and ’70s Duluth, Minnesota. Written as a collection of essays and a “string of vignettes” rather than a straightforward autobiographical narrative, the author emphasizes that his “pure, unadulterated visions of the past” emerge straight from his memory. With this disclaimer that specific dates, events, and names may be off, Munger recollects delightful childhood events that are nostalgic rather than maudlin. Like many White adults of the 1950s, Munger’s parents benefited from the postwar economic boom that afforded their children a carefree, sheltered youth spent playing sports, riding bikes, swimming, and ice-skating. Essays cover an almost clichéd collection of stories about the life of a 1960s White kid from a small city, with entire chapters devoted to baseball games, childhood antics (“Low Crimes and Misdemeanors”), and humorous anecdotes such as “puking” on the school principal. In Munger’s wistful retelling, seemingly every group of kids in Duluth had their own makeshift fort, shack, or clubhouse (“sanctuaries from scrutiny”) that evolved from imaginary playhouses to storage units for Playboy magazines, cigarettes, and other teenage “contraband.” Munger hailed from Bob Dylan’s hometown, so there is, of course, the obligatory essay on “Sex, Drugs, & Rock and Roll” outlining the author’s own escapades in the early 1970s.

Though often lighthearted, the memoir doesn’t shy away from honest portrayals of his “obsessive/compulsive” mother and absent father, a personal injury lawyer who was constantly chasing “a big payday.” In one particularly unsettling passage, the author recalls his father declaring to him in the middle of a family fight that his mother was “having an affair with a fancy-assed Twin Cities Doctor.” His mother proceeded to describe “all the women” her husband had slept with. Students of mid-20th-century Midwestern politics are also given insights into the family dynamics of one of Duluth’s most politically active families whose social circles included Hubert Humphrey. Not only is the author’s uncle Willard Munger the longest-serving member in the history of the Minnesota House of Representatives, but his father, Harry, served as chairman of the Democratic Party of St. Louis County. Both are described in intimate detail here. Accompanied by ample family photos and snapshots, this is a deeply personal, approachable, well-written book. A powerful theme that runs throughout is an abiding love of Northern Minnesota, particularly its natural environment, which served as the stage for Munger’s most profound memories and which the author laments is increasingly being replaced by buildings and asphalt. As a successful, powerful lawyer and judge in his own right, the author ends the story with meeting his wife, René, leaving readers wondering about his own career and post-adolescent life.

An often humorous, occasionally poignant reflection on growing up in the 1960s and ’70s.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73244-342-6

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Cloquet River Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 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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