A footnote to larger and more in-depth portraits of the City of Angels, though not without merit.



Ruminations on the capital of the 21st century.

Los Angeles, at the center of the tectonically, culturally, and financially hyperactive Pacific Rim, has displaced New York as a place of innovation, change, and multicultural encounter. “It is enormously ambiguous,” writes Baldwin, to say nothing of being enormous: LA is not so much a city as an agglomeration of 88 cities, with a larger population than 40 of the 50 states and an economy that overshadows the GDP of most nations. Early on, Baldwin, a relative newcomer, admits that “I’m a little indifferent as to whether what I put down here has been thought by somebody before me, because it seems so likely; if anything, the deeper my research and reporting went, the greater my appreciation grew for others’ confessions.” Indeed, there’s not much new in these pages, which tend to the aridly bookish without the charm and good humor of the author’s entertaining Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down (2012). At one point, Baldwin quotes or cites three books in a mere 12 lines, which is at least intellectually honest: He’s not presenting anyone else’s thoughts as his own, an unusual bit of purity in the bricolage culture of Hollywood. On that note, the author is at his best when he tests commonly accepted tropes (“So Hollywood was and wasn’t ‘Hollywood,’ and Los Angeles was and wasn’t ‘Hollywood,’ and these things got confused”) and finds many wanting. The narrative takes on topical urgency when it addresses issues of racial and social justice: the steady decline in opportunity for minorities, the steady expansion of skid row, the steady militarization of the metropolitan police, which pretty well invented the SWAT team. Baldwin is worth reading on all those scores but only after one has ingested the works of Mike Davis, Reyner Banham, Gustavo Arellano, Joan Didion, David Ulin, and others.

A footnote to larger and more in-depth portraits of the City of Angels, though not without merit.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-15042-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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 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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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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