An engrossing coming-of-age story that wrings hard-won wisdom from giddy romance.



In her memoir, Scolnik recounts a passionate affair, tested by separation, with a Frenchman.

Scolnik’s narrative begins in 1976 when the 20-year-old Wesleyan student arrived in Paris for a junior year abroad to study flute, French literature, Marxist “Dialectic Thought,” etc. Entranced by Parisian culture but feeling lonely and adrift, she signed up with the amateur chorus of the Orchestre de Paris, where, scanning the bass section, she beheld Luc, an “Adonis-like man” with “a sensitive face radiating quiet intelligence.” After days of gazing, she finally tapped him on the shoulder. Through awkward small talk, car rides, and cafe meetups with the reserved tax lawyer, the two bonded over classical music and succumbed to a torrent of love, sex that felt “deeply metaphysical,” and languorous idylls in her garret. Alas, their love seemed doomed. Luc was married with a 3-year-old son, but, he assured Scolnik, he was separated from his wife, Claire (much of the time, at least), and would divorce her and go to America to work, perhaps. Returning to New England and Wesleyan, Scolnik continued to hope, encouraged by Luc’s besotted letters and a three-week reprise of the affair during her spring break trip to Paris. When Luc announced that he would come to Boston for a summer English course, she rented them an apartment to live in together—and that’s when her blazing ardor got plunged into an ice bath. Luc arrived grumpy and distracted, hated every morsel of American food, and made plain his indifference to Scolnik, even scoffing at her when she badly cut herself. After five days of this treatment, Scolnik “despised him with every cell in [her] body” and left him. She then rushed back a few weeks later to see him—only to be confronted by Claire herself.

Scolnik’s saga is, in part, a burning love letter to Paris, written with gorgeous detail. In cafes, she writes, she “began to recognize certain types—elderly French ladies sitting shoulder to shoulder looking out onto the street, their miniature terriers perched on chairs beside them; businessmen in suits nursing tall beers; students smoking cigarettes and writing notes at their espresso-cluttered tables; graying, long-haired intellectuals with scarves, looking important, retired, and committed to café life as a means of keeping the old political discussions alive over their plats du jour.” Concerning her fraught relationship with Luc, she conveys the visceral impact of the couple’s attraction (“it was like touching a power line,” she writes, when her finger accidentally grazed his hand during a concert), while its obsessiveness comes through in excerpts from Luc’s hammy but heartfelt missives. (“My body was knotted, as if, at 1:30 when your plane took off, all the existential anguish that you knew how to appease, surprised me again with more force, more tenacity. Paris seems absurd.”) Scolnik’s shrewd, evocative prose captures the bliss of love, but she’s also entertainingly cleareyed about its petty agonies when it unravels. (“Although I knew that none of our daily trials were my fault, Luc made me feel responsible for them all: that the bus ride into Cambridge was long and hot, that good art films weren’t showing at the right times, that a dead fish was floating in the Boston Harbor, that inexpensive little bistros weren’t materializing when we were hungry.”) The result is a captivating remembrance that treats falling in love and falling out of it with equal honesty.

An engrossing coming-of-age story that wrings hard-won wisdom from giddy romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-471-2

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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