A vivid, engaging, and engrossing collection from one of American literature’s great letter writers.

THE LETTERS OF SHIRLEY JACKSON

Famed for such chillers as “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson reveals a warm, witty side in her voluminous correspondence.

There’s still an edge to the hilarious domestic vignettes she sends her parents, clearly the raw material for the now less famous magazine pieces collected in Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons: Tending to four rambunctious children while cranking out the magazine pieces and novels on which the family income depended was a perennial challenge. Husband Stanley Edgar Hyman, a professor at Bennington for most of his career, never made much money, and his urgings to Jackson to get back to work form a disquieting undercurrent to the generally cheerful letters. The earliest letters are her lovestruck missives to Hyman when both were students at Syracuse University, but an angry letter from 1938 reveals a darker side to their relationship, delineated in more explicit detail 22 years later. Her anguish over his unrepentant womanizing and habit of demeaning her in public while ignoring her in private makes a heartbreaking counterpoint to delightful portraits of family activities that also ring true but tell only part of the story. The dark side so evident in Jackson’s fiction is kept for her work, but we see its origins in a 1938 letter to Hyman declaring, “you know my rather passive misanthropic tendencies, and how i [sic] hate this whole human race as a collection of monsters.” Jackson’s avoidance of capital letters adds to her correspondence’s charmingly idiosyncratic flavor, though she adheres to more conventional punctuation in letters to her agents Bernice Baumgarten and Carol Brandt, which offer candid snapshots of a working writer’s life. Later letters chronicle without self-pity the years of declining physical and emotional health that preceded her untimely death at age 48 in 1965.

A vivid, engaging, and engrossing collection from one of American literature’s great letter writers.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13464-1

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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 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 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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