A lively and enthusiastic surfing account.

BAD KARMA

THE TRUE STORY OF A MEXICO TRIP FROM HELL

A surfer recalls a calamitous road trip to Mexico with two cohorts in this debut memoir.

“There were two classes of residents: Those who had surfed mainland Mexico, and those who wanted to,” remarks Wilson regarding “The Manor,” a San Diego, California, surfing community. In the summer of 1978, the author snatched the opportunity to take a road trip to do just that. A self-confessed “hanger-on,” Wilson, nicknamed “Paul E. Opters,” was roped into the trip by “Moose” and “Jelly,” two esteemed surfers, because he owned a vehicle. The three 20-somethings packed the author’s Volkswagen bus to the brim and headed south for the border, but not before it was revealed that Moose was skipping bail to go to Mexico. The bus took the travelers through Tijuana before following the Baja Norte coastline to La Paz, where a perilous ferry crossing to Puerto Vallarta brought them closer to the surf paradise of La Ticla on the Mexican mainland. The trip was punctuated with disaster, mostly linked to Wilson’s unreliable and ironically nicknamed “Wonderbus.” The author also recalls a chance meeting with the infamous drug cartel leader El Chapo. On arrival at La Ticla, the author evocatively describes the group’s time spent surfing and living in a palm frond beach shelter called a palapa. The location is observed distinctly through a surfer’s eye: “La Ticla is a classic point break, a bulge in the coastline formed by countless cycles of muddy storm water pouring into the ocean via the arroyo, the debris settling to the bottom.” Surfing enthusiasts may be disappointed to find that only a fraction of the memoir captures the joy of the sport, preferring to focus on the minutiae of the road trip. Moments of extreme tension are recounted with high energy, but this approach is occasionally overused: “How can my mouth be so dry and my skin so wet? Damn, it’s quiet. I don’t remember the fluorescent lights humming before. Check my watch again. 12:43. You’ve got to be kidding me.” Illustrated with Wilson’s photographs throughout, this fun read captures a bygone age of surfing life and will be of interest to anyone who loves the West Coast scene.

A lively and enthusiastic surfing account. (map)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2019

ISBN: 14.99

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more