A vividly drawn, episodic account that traces the author’s life in prose and poetry, from his family roots to his vigorous...

I'VE ALWAYS BEEN A SCRIBBLER

STORIES AND POEMS WRITTEN IN MY OCTOGENARIAN AND NONAGENARIAN YEARS

In this collection of poems and autobiographical sketches, a man explores the tenderness, humor, triumphs, and disappointments of both youth and old age.

The subtitle of this volume reveals that its 18 poems and 22 stories were written during the author’s “octogenarian and nonagenarian years,” phrasing that foreshadows the book’s engaging blend of Old World courtliness and perceptive humor. Farber (I’ve Always Been a Dancer: Poems Written in My Octogenarian Years, 2012) is at his strongest in the detailed vignettes about his family and his early-20th-century upbringing in a middle-class, Orthodox Jewish family in Chicago. His tone is both affectionate and frank, as he reveals not only the simple joys of a 1920s childhood in a large, spirited clan, but darker family secrets as well: his father’s bullying anger; his mother’s emotional dependence on her young son. His portraits of his dashing uncles are compelling and personal: charismatic Uncle Dave, whose shady double life leads to prison; handsome Uncle Eddie, whose rise to baseball stardom is cut short by a knee injury and who keeps his non-Jewish wife and children hidden from his family for 10 years; and dutiful Aunt Bluma, “a Cinderella figure with no possible slipper to rescue her.” Many of the prose pieces are recounted in the present tense, which lends immediacy to the narrative. Farber’s poems are more uneven. In some, the rhythm and rhyme are so original as to be distracting. “Two Elders of Paradise in Downtown Los Angeles” employs an unusual ABCDED rhyme scheme, and while Line 5 in Stanza 3 is the compact “A fanciful afternoon,” the corresponding line in the next stanza is the rambling (and a few syllables longer) “Where sparkling chandeliers opulently hang.” Others, however, hit the emotional mark with deftness. “On Becoming a Nonagenarian” approaches “a delicate chapter / In the stages of human life” with both vulnerability and exultation, and “Forever” becomes a gently succinct celebration of sensuality.

A vividly drawn, episodic account that traces the author’s life in prose and poetry, from his family roots to his vigorous later years.

Pub Date: July 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5471-7970-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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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