An affecting and surprising remembrance about the responsibilities of parents and children.

ONE HEADLIGHT

A MEMOIR

Caprioli describes coming of age in Alaska with a free-spirited Christian mother in this debut memoir.

In 2002, when 12-year-old Caprioli landed in Anchorage to visit his mom, Abby, she picked him up in a beat-up Mustang with no passenger window and a single working headlight. She drove him home through the worst snowstorm ever to hit the region: “The one-hour trip had taken five,” recalls the author. “We had sat at the edge of our seats the entire journey, terrified but excited, happy to be together, and harrowingly aware of death.” Such unpredictability was par for the course with Abby, who gained full custody of Caprioli a few years later, causing him to leave California and settle in Lazy Mountain, Alaska. It was a backwoods, hardscrabble, evangelical upbringing that didn’t always mesh with Caprioli’s growing gay consciousness. The author moved to New York City in 2012 to pursue his literary dreams. There, he worked for a time as a sex worker, making enough to send Abby money every month. Just as Caprioli began to build a life for himself, Abby was diagnosed with colorectal cancer; he found himself back in Alaska, coming to grips with what his mother meant to him. Caprioli’s prose is frank and insightful, finding the lyricism in everyday objects, turns of phrase, and locales. Here, for instance, he discusses pursuing casual sex in Anchorage after Abby got sick: “Sex is the opposite of death, and spending days with her where she could hardly move her head, or could do nothing but blankly contemplate the enormity of a white, stucco wall—I needed a distraction.” His portrait of Abby is the soul of the book, and she’s revealed as a larger-than-life character who exhibits real problems and who causes problems for the author, as well. However, she never loses the reader’s sympathy thanks to his nuanced, nonjudgmental portrayal. The result is a moving rumination on the varying roles that a mother can play in a son’s life, for better and for worse.

An affecting and surprising remembrance about the responsibilities of parents and children.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73-751043-7

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Cirque Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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