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WE ARE NEVER MEETING IN REAL LIFE.

ESSAYS

Personal embarrassment provides plenty of material for in-print or online entertainment.

A blogger (Bitches Gotta Eat) has to laugh to keep from crying—or maybe killing somebody—in this collection of essays from the black, full-figured female perspective.

The second collection of essays by Irby (Meaty, 2013) explores what it means to be “fat and black.” Though she has an active and diverse sex life, the author seems to prefer staying home with her cat, with whom she’s “trapped in this mutually abusive codependent relationship.” She watches a lot of TV and eats a lot of junk food while watching junk TV. She prefers writing jokes for online consumption rather than interacting with so-called real people in the so-called real world. “People are boring and terrible,” she writes. “I am boring and terrible. My funny runs out, my cute runs out, my smart sometimes hiccups, my sexy wakes up with uncontrollable diarrhea. I have an attitude. And a sharp edge!” Irby shows her sharp edge throughout a collection that touches on topics ranging from the potential pros and cons of living in a small town, her employment adventures at an animal hospital, her upbringing with an alcoholic, abusive father and the mother he exploited, her preoccupation with death, and her unpredicted path to lesbian marriage. She responds to a pre-marriage questionnaire that asks, “how important is sex to you?” with “Is there such a thing as ‘the opposite of important?’….Hopefully lesbian bed death is real and not another unattainable fantasy the Internet has lied to me about, like poreless skin.” Though the collection is uneven, and many of the pieces strain for effect, some are very funny, some of them ring painfully true, and the best do both. Consider the essay about what happens when all of Irby’s friends have reached the birthing and raising children stages, and she has no experience around kids: “I forget when they’re within earshot and say mean things about dead people or recount in excruciating detail the highlights of my most recent gynecological exam.”

Personal embarrassment provides plenty of material for in-print or online entertainment.

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-91219-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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