by Will Self ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 17, 2023
Plenty to ponder in this energetic, opinionated collection.
Sharp, trenchant essays from an enfant terrible of modern letters.
In this wide-ranging hodgepodge of pieces, Self reveals a more personable side—a kinder, gentler, more accessible one, even if the prose may send readers scurrying to the dictionary. On a single page from his astute essay on the “otherworldliness of Kafka’s prose,” he uses vermiculated, velleity, inanition, and neurasthenia. The titular essay examines the powerful experience of solitary reading, which provides “direct engagement with the mind shaping its language.” Besides, quips the author, it’s freeing to do so whenever we want. In the witty “What to Read?” Self urges us to “read what the hell you like,” later adding, “No, read what you want—but be conscious that, in this area of life as so many others, you are what you eat, and if your diet is solely pulp, you’ll very likely become rather…pulpy.” There’s also “How Should We Read?” while “Reading for Writers” neatly concludes the collection. In between, Self effortlessly weaves his way from such lighthearted topics as shelves, the “very lynchpins of a form of bourgeois domesticity,” to a lengthy, dark, autobiographical piece on W.G. Sebald and the role of the Holocaust in his writing as well as an unfortunately timely piece about his visit to “coruscating” Pripyat, near Chernobyl, at the same time as the Fukushima disaster. In “A Care Home for Novels,” Self argues that the literary novel is “dying before your eyes,” while another essay, from Harper’s in 2018, is titled “The Printed Word in Peril.” Self also delivers an insightful piece on the “gonzo journalist avant la lettre,” George Orwell; a fine appreciation of William S. Burroughs and his “fiendish parable of modern alienation,” Junky; and a stellar exploration of Joseph Conrad’s forward thinking regarding “space, time and their odd interlinkages” in The Secret Agent. Winding down, “Apocalypse Then” is an introspective, sobering piece on climate change.Plenty to ponder in this energetic, opinionated collection.
Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022
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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.
Awards & Accolades
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
Page Count: 272
Publisher: Celadon Books
Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020
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by Jonah Berger ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2023
Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.
By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.
Pub Date: March 7, 2023
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Harper Business
Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023
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