The kind of book a therapist might tell you to write to get it out of your system.

MELANIA AND ME

THE RISE AND FALL OF MY FRIENDSHIP WITH THE FIRST LADY

Yet another tell-all from a disgruntled Trump administration ex, this time from the East Wing.

“Imagine if your close friend suddenly, unexpectedly, became one of the most powerful, influential women in the whole world,” writes Wolkoff, the founder of a consulting agency and former director of special events for Vogue, in this tedious, opportunistic memoir. A few years later, the author read this headline on the front page of the New York Times: “Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to First Lady’s Friend.” As Wolkoff writes, “my personal compensation for my work on the inauguration that I retained was $480,000….Many people working on the inauguration made far more than I did.” To be fair, the author is one of countless victims of the Trump propensity for stiffing former employees and then smearing them publicly, and she notes that, after attorney fees, she is “in the hole almost a million dollars.” The book deal should help recoup some of those expenses. Though the author sets the record straight in mind-numbing detail—more than 80 pages cover the day-by-day planning of the inauguration—she offers scant fresh information about Melania or her husband’s administration. Was Melania upset about the Access Hollywood tape? No. Is she close with Ivanka? No. Throughout the book, which is about 100 pages too long, the author documents her relationship with her former friend via the many texts they exchanged, replete with heart emojis and effusive declarations of love—e.g., “I LOVE YOU…XOXO.” For far too long, the author admits, she was stuck in “Mel-La-Lania Land,” but she fails to provide enough interesting material from behind the wall. The best news coming from the book is that at least one 2016 voter has changed her mind about DJT, as he is called here.

The kind of book a therapist might tell you to write to get it out of your system.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5124-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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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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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