A thoughtful, artfully written exploration not just about how music works, but how it makes us feel.



A Montreal-based poet digs into our fascination with music and its relation to our search for meaning.

Outside of her poetic output, Waterman has collected a diverse collection of essays about creativity on her blog, The Mindful Bard. Many of these thought exercises and interviews concern music, but in this book, she writes, “they’re better and make more sense.” The most primal narrative thread is the idea of the “soundquest,” which Waterman defines as “a kind of hero’s journey” with more than a little bit of obsession involved. “A soundquest,” she writes, “begins when you hear something mysteriously thrilling, something that drives you to keep tunneling into the genre until you find the quintessence—the performance or the recording representing the culmination of listening pleasure for that genre.” Refreshingly, the author doesn’t limit her illuminating discussions to just Western music, though she does look at Bob Dylan’s influence and the cultural touchstone of Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.” Physically, intellectually, and spiritually, Waterman travels much further. She analyzes the work of musicians from Brazil, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, among many other places, showing what drives these artists to create remarkable music. Waterman also shares the interesting, little-known fact that the mythology of the so-called “dark man at the crossroads” (in America, think Robert Johnson and the devil) reverberates across many cultures: “The crossroads being such a potent symbol of the intersection of the sacred with the profane, the soul standing at that intersection now complete can enter a state of mystical turning that, incorporating all, transcends all.” There’s a patina of New Age–y spirituality to the writing, but Waterman’s insights into the nature of jazz, blues, and other genres, as well as her personal discoveries, are well worth exploring.

A thoughtful, artfully written exploration not just about how music works, but how it makes us feel.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77183-500-8

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


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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