An entertaining and engaging virtual watch party for a show that changed TV forever.

OFF THE BACK OF A TRUCK

UNOFFICIAL CONTRABAND FOR THE SOPRANOS FAN

A dynamic assemblage of dead-on insights and observations about The Sopranos.

As producer and director Braccia notes, this book is not the place to start learning about the story arcs of one of the greatest TV shows of all time. However, if the phrase “cut to black” doesn’t ring a bell, you owe it to yourself to watch it. For fans, this is better than a bowl of Artie Bucco’s ziti. In the introduction, Braccia gives readers permission to bounce around, which is refreshing. “This book isn’t a guide, it’s a party,” he writes. “With fuckin’ ziti….It was conceived to feel like you’re walking into an apartment filled with a collection of smart, fun fans of the show, each with their own areas of expertise and passion.” Writing with “some friends of ours,” the author begins with a breakdown of the various factions, analyzes the crimes committed in the course of the show, and takes a deep dive into the careful craft, touching on editing and cinematography, the incredible method acting employed by the cast, and more tenuous concepts such as the psychology, points of view, and metaphors that help shape the narrative. These chapters are kind of heavy, so Braccia breaks it up with interstitial interruptions about the music, the omnipresent cuisine, costuming, and Italian American culture. Examining many aspects of David Chase’s genius, the narrative touches on the influences that form the show’s DNA, among them other gangster flicks, Westerns, and TV shows ranging from Wiseguy to Twin Peaks. It would be easy to label this collection as fanboy material, but the writing—Braccia’s “friends” include professors, psychiatrists, film and TV writers, and filmmakers—is incisive in its dissections of the show’s elements. Wrapping up with a morgue’s worth of the story’s victims and the contributors’ favorite episodes, the book organically ends with a group conversation about the show’s most infamous episode, “Made in America.” Cut to black.

An entertaining and engaging virtual watch party for a show that changed TV forever.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982139-06-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tiller Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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More thought-provoking work from an important creator.

THE SECRET TO SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH

The acclaimed graphic memoirist returns to themes of self-discovery, this time through the lens of her love of fitness and exercise.

Some readers may expect Bechdel to be satisfied with her career. She was the 2014 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and her bestselling memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? both earned universally rave reviews, with the former inspiring a Broadway musical that won five Tony awards. But there she was, in her mid-50s, suffering from “a distinct sense of dread” and asking herself, “where had my creative joy gone?” Ultimately, she found what she was seeking, or at least expanded her search. In what she calls “the fitness book,” the author recounts, from her birth to the present, the exercise fads that have swept the nation for decades, from the guru-worship of Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne through running, biking, hiking, “feminist martial arts,” yoga, and mountain climbing. “I have hared off after almost every new fitness fad to come down the pike for the last six decades,” she writes. Yet this book is about more than just exercise. Bechdel’s work always encompasses multiple interlocking themes, and here she delves into body image; her emerging gay consciousness; the connection between nature and inner meaning; how the transcendentalists were a version of the hippies a century earlier; and how her own pilgrimage is reminiscent of both Margaret Fuller and Jack Kerouac, whose stories become inextricably entwined in these pages with Bechdel’s. The author’s probing intelligence and self-deprecating humor continue to shimmer through her emotionally expressive drawings, but there is so much going on (familial, professional, romantic, cultural, spiritual) that it is easy to see how she became overwhelmed—and how she had to learn to accept the looming mortality that awaits us all. In the end, she decided to “stop struggling,” a decision that will relieve readers as well.

More thought-provoking work from an important creator.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-544-38765-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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