A rich mythic, poetic and philosophic tradition that here offers more obscurity than enlightenment.




Pedersen’s (The Spiral Arms, 2012, etc.) short prose-poem-canticle-chapbook to Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, is an “homage to the soul of the sacred feminine.”

Pedersen seeks to illuminate “the Kingdom of Heaven as here and now.” A typical passage, stuffed with colorful words and high-sounding diction (not to mention improper commas), reads: “The scintillating flame, of an orange-descending sun. A white fire to the waves. The red-iridescent mystery, of this sun-movemented [sic] blaze. Withal the white-stellar and invisible ellipse, sifting like silver silk, through the deep-velvet dark.” The chapter concludes with “Remember when you pray…that you are a god,” but Pedersen forges little logical or even poetic relationship between that conclusion and the foregoing flame, fire, sun and starry sky. Pedersen explains in a preface that he’s being deliberately elliptical to achieve “an even greater concentration of meaning” and thus “a greater potency,” yet “this approach relies upon the work of time, the effort of seeking”—that is, on the reader’s effort. Nonetheless, deciphering powerful meaning from Pedersen’s truisms—we make our own fate; the Kingdom of Heaven is within—can be problematic and becomes especially difficult in impossible-to-parse accretions: “That in time our thoughts become finished, and yet the mind which does not disappear, is nevertheless and in its subtle cognitions, eclipsed utterly, by the wide-intricate wings of the Spirit and what it whispers to us, in dreams.” In some passages, the choppy sentences could be rearranged with little change in meaning. Additionally, the frequent repetition, particularly of color names, becomes very tiresome—argent-purple, white-argent, purple-argent, and gold-argent, for example, occur within one short three-page chapter.

A rich mythic, poetic and philosophic tradition that here offers more obscurity than enlightenment.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1452564821

Page Count: 86

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2013

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A smart collection of articles and interviews on stupidity.


Are people getting dumber, or does it just look that way?

That question underlies this collection of essays by and interviews with psychologists, neurologists, philosophers, and other well-credentialed intellectuals. A handful of contributors have ties to North American universities—Dan Ariely, Alison Gopnik, and Daniel Kahneman among them—but most live in France, and their views have a Gallic flavor: blunt, opinionated, and tolerant of terms in disfavor in the U.S., including, as translated from the French by Schillinger, moron, idiot, and imbecile. Marmion, a France-based psychologist, sets the tone by rebutting the idea that we live in a “golden age of idiocy”: “As far back as the written record extends, the greatest minds of their ages believed this to be the case.” Nonetheless, today’s follies differ in two ways from those of the past. One is that the stakes are higher: “The novelty of the contemporary era is that it would take only one idiot with a red button to eradicate all stupidity, and the whole world with it. An idiot elected by sheep who were only too proud to choose their slaughterer.” The other is that—owing partly to social media—human follies are more visible, whether they involve UFO sightings or “some jerk pressing the elevator button like a maniac when it’s already been pressed.” Social psychologist Ewa Drozda-Senkowska distinguishes between ignorance and stupidity, noting that “stupidity, true stupidity, is the hallmark of a frightening intellectual complacency that leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” Other experts consider whether stupidity has an evolutionary basis, how it erodes morale, and the “very particular kind of adult stupidity” exemplified by Donald Trump. Although not a self-help guide, this book suggests that it rarely pays to argue with blockheads. Unfortunately, notes neuropsychologist Sebastian Dieguez, the “imbecile…doesn’t have the mental resources that would permit him to perceive his own imbecility.”

A smart collection of articles and interviews on stupidity.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313499-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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