Compelling reading about what is a depressingly evergreen societal ill.

DARK DAYS, BRIGHT NIGHTS

SURVIVING THE LAS VEGAS STORM DRAINS

A journalist and social worker shares stories of how a group of flood channel–dwelling homeless people found their way back to society.

In this oral-history follow-up to Beneath the Neon, O’Brien’s examination of homelessness in subterranean Las Vegas, he chronicles how one group of homeless people were able to leave tunnel life behind. The author structures each of the chapters around a specific question, to which he elicited responses from men and women who had survived everything from poverty to substance abuse during their time underground. His subjects ranged from teenagers to people in their 60s and came from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds. They included drug addicts, military veterans, and ex-cons, many of whom were survivors of dysfunctional or violent childhoods or some other traumatic or personally debilitating event. Two of the most intriguing figures O'Brien interviewed include Szmauz, a young musician from "a loving family in the mountains of southern New Hampshire,” and Ande, “who has a doctorate in organizational behavior and human factors [and] lived in the drains for seven years, the last while battling breast cancer.” O'Brien asked his interviewees questions that encouraged them to discuss such topics as their childhoods and adolescent and adult years; how they became homeless; and how they managed to navigate the "dangerous curves…hairpin turns…roadblocks and detours" that they faced on a daily basis. Without exception, each of the author’s interviewees have faced significant obstacles. Many, like Becky, Iron, and Manny, backslid into self-destructive behaviors (notes Iron, “I do the least amount of wrong I can. That’s the simplest way to put it”); one, Jazz, lost his beloved girlfriend to a tunnel flood. Against the odds, all found a way back to sobriety (or close to it) and a more secure life. Powerful and relentlessly honest, the interviews explode myths surrounding homelessness while promoting compassionate views of the growing number of homeless Americans.

Compelling reading about what is a depressingly evergreen societal ill.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949481-42-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Central Recovery Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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

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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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