A vital discussion of a crucial virtue.

READ REVIEW

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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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 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.

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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