A lively and playful challenge to resuscitate a form that has been considered all but dead.


An attempt to revive the format and reclaim its place in literary tradition.

In this entry in the publisher’s new Undelivered Lectures series—joining Namwali Serpell’s Stranger Faces—creative writing professor and Guggenheim fellow Cappello argues for everything she thinks a lecture should be: playful and provocative, to be sure, and perhaps incorporating elements of stand-up comedy, performance art, and improvisation. It should not conform to the clichés that most commonly come to mind: pedantic, didactic, boring. “The lecture will have succeeded if, like the essay, it cannot be summarized, but only experienced,” writes Cappello, who effectively demonstrates the connection between the lecture and the essay. While the former is performed and the latter written, they share a similar mindset and spirit. The lecture’s “geography is a the­ater-cocoon, descended from the study carrel where you read, the dark corner of the library you retreated into, which was descended from the cubbyhole you stowed your books and drawings in in kindergarten.” However, don’t confuse the future of the lecture with the popularity of one of its current forms: TED Talks, which “give me the creeps….They all have a whiff of organized religion about them and the feel of the sermon on the infomercial mount.” As her “lecture on the lecture” has led to this book, the author intersperses examples of note taking. These notes, which one might take while listening to a lecture, or use to compose one, show the ways in which the mind works and ideas connect (or not) as the lecturer searches for the form and cohesion through which she can convey her message. Cappello also shows how the tradition of the lecture has too often minimized, belittled, or excluded women. As she argues, the lecture must be better than that, and this is a good introduction to the art.

A lively and playful challenge to resuscitate a form that has been considered all but dead.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945492-44-0

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Transit Books

Review Posted Online: June 17, 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.



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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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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