Intellectually vigorous and emotionally stirring.

EVERYBODY

A BOOK ABOUT FREEDOM

Investigating the body and its consequences.

Growing up in a lesbian household in the stridently homophobic Britain of the 1980s, novelist and cultural critic Laing, winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize, felt she was “not a girl at all, but something in between and as yet unnamed.” The sharp dissonance “between how I experienced myself and how I was assumed to be,” she writes, was like a “noose around my neck.” Reflecting on her fraught sense of embodiment, Laing creates a penetrating examination of the political and cultural meanings ascribed to bodies as well as the relationships of bodies to power and freedom. The body, writes the author, was central to cultural protests—gay rights, feminism, and civil rights—that essentially were struggles “to be free of oppression based on the kind of body you inhabited.” The controversial Austrian physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich serves as gadfly and guide as Laing thinks about the forces that shape and limit bodily freedom. In the early 1930s, Reich coined the term sexual revolution in order “to describe the universe of happiness and love that would arise once people had shaken off their shackles” of sexual repression, and he claimed to have discovered orgone, “the universal energy that animates all life.” With Reich as a touchstone, Laing investigates many artists and writers with particularly vexed connections to their bodies: Susan Sontag in her ferocious response to cancer; radical feminist Andrea Dworkin; Agnes Martin, who, like Reich, “wanted to connect people to a kind of universal love” but became undermined by paranoia; Ana Mendieta, whose art violently depicted rape; Allen Ginsberg; Malcolm X; and Nina Simone, whose music enacted a “cathartic passage through fury, mourning, horror, hurt, despair, and out again to joy.” Laing reveals in visceral detail society’s terror “of different kinds of bodies mixing too freely” and envisions a future in which that terror no longer exists.

Intellectually vigorous and emotionally stirring.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-60877-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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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