This work delivers vivid images and a structured and illuminating account of a momentous event.

EGUNGUN OF BENIN

A debut photography book explores a religious festival in Benin.

Landau takes readers on a journey to the African town of Sakete in 2017. Every three years in Sakete, an event takes place among the Yoruba people. For some 16 days, individuals in trances dressed in full-body costumes (no skin is shown to the outside world), who are known as Egungun, make their way around the town. The Egungun have retinues that can range from one to 100 people. Several Egungun dance or are accompanied by drummers and singers. Some Egungun are violent, chasing and whipping bystanders with atoriwhips. Others are peaceful, bestowing blessings or predictions. The book catalogs 130 Egungun with photographs by the author and biographical sketches. For instance, in 2017, Egungun Elègba sported a vibrant yellow and red costume (most of the participants also have pictures from 2011 when many of them looked quite different). This Egungun was “instituted by the sages to invoke the benefits of the deity called Elègba who is appealed to” for protection “against evil spirits that lead men to misunderstandings.” For those unfamiliar with Yoruba or Egungun practices, the book has a great deal to offer. The Egungun costumes are striking. Whether they are brightly colored with images of animals or comparatively drab, they make for a memorable presence. To simply look at the many photos is to see what a bustling event this festival must be. That all of the Egungun have their own personalities and purposes provides further depth to the images. Still, several aspects of the Egungun backgrounds can be lost on the uninitiated. For instance, many backstories involve people consulting the Ifa oracle. How they created “an outfit of the kind recommended by the Ifa oracle” is unclear. Likewise, the author’s personal experiences warranted further elaboration. He mentions leaving the festival early in 2017 for safety reasons (and advises readers to by no means attend the celebration without a chaperone), though the specifics are not mentioned. Nevertheless, the volume provides an engrossing experience.

This work delivers vivid images and a structured and illuminating account of a momentous event.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 599

Publisher: manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2022

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 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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