A glitzy but never sugary tale of love, work, and family.

THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE IN THE MOVIES

Hollywood publicist Harris, the author of Unexposed Film (2012), offers more memories from iconic movie sets of the 2000s—this time as the backdrop to his own real-life love story.

After being widowed in his 30s, the Los Angeles–based author threw himself into the nomadic life of on-location film shoots, “the further from home, the better.” The wanderlust didn’t fade with the grief, however, and it pushed his second marriage to Margaret,a musician and the mother of his two sons, to the breaking point. In colorful but earnest prose, Harris examines his complicated history with love, his film career, and the intersection of the two in 2003 when he was in London; Fort Ricasoli, Malta; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, working on the film Troy (2004), starring Brad Pitt. It was a difficult shoot, and Harris dealt with everything from mutinying extras to publicity mishaps to dysentery. He also missed his sons, Casey and Sam, at home with their mom in Ithaca, New York; he worried especially about Casey, a teen craving independence despite his struggles with visual impairment and kidney disease. During the shoot, Harris met Nicola, a journalist with whom he had an instant connection. The two began an affair that led to the author’s divorce, culminating in an unconventional wedding ceremony in South Africa during the filming of Blood Diamond (2006). Alongside his personal life, Harris chronicles the ups and downs of other productions, including Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and Syriana (2005). Harris is most likable when he’s in work mode, shining a light on the lives of the unknown people who make movies happen, including makeup artists, caterers, and frazzled assistants. The celebrity cameos by Pitt, Peter O’Toole, George Clooney, and others are dazzling, but Harris wisely focuses on his own story. The romance aspect is entertaining but sometimes irksome, as the author gushes about Nicola one minute and admits to texting an old fling the next (after Nicola gave her number to another man). Still, it all works out in the end, and the epilogue gives an update on the family that’s genuinely touching.

A glitzy but never sugary tale of love, work, and family.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-83803-242-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Zuleika

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 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 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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