A vital discussion of a crucial virtue.

ON CIVILITY

RESTORATIVE REFLECTIONS

A paean to civility that couldn’t come at a better time.

In 1744, when he was 13, future president George Washington famously wrote out 110 rules of civility, which generally involved propriety and decorum; for example, his 15th rule reads, “Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean.” Curtin, the executive director of the 4Civility Institute, a conflict-management consultancy, cites Washington in his poems on civility, but he has grander aims in mind. Although civility may still have something to do with “manners,” as the author sees it, the concept also encompasses “compassion, dignity, human value, human worth, forgiveness, and self-dignity.” Overall, the book is both an exploration and a celebration of these fundamental values. For the author, one of the key competencies of civility is “listening to understand,” and he devotes multiple poems to how one may develop this skill; in one he writes, “The real gift comes through / abandoning listening to respond / and learning to listen to understand. / I learn very little when my lips are moving, except / perhaps what I already know.” He makes clear in this and in other pieces that listening—and civility in general—is about building genuine, empathetic connections with other people. It’s only through such connections, the author says, that one can come to recognize others as indispensable, which is foundational to Curtin’s understanding of civility: “The day that you decide that no one should / ever be considered disposable is the day you / change your thinking about everything.” In these days of division and acrimony, the author’s message is more valuable than ever, and its call is only amplified by Chan’s gorgeous illustrations, which mingle color photographs of natural and human-made surfaces with inkblots—a visual narrative that harmonizes well with Curtin’s verse.

A vital discussion of a crucial virtue.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-938462-42-9

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Old Stone Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

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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