A moving and eloquent memoir.

MEAN BABY

A MEMOIR OF GROWING UP

An acclaimed actor reflects on her life, film career, and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2018.

Born outside of Detroit in 1972, Blair earned the nickname “mean baby” for the “judgmental, scrutinizing” expression she wore on her face from the day she was born. In fact, she was a “sensitive soul” who felt judged by others—in particular, her demanding, sometimes-cruel mother. At 7, Blair developed a taste for alcohol at a family Passover celebration and drank in secret after that, reveling in the feeling of “safety” alcohol gave her. She also suffered awful abuse. “I have been raped, multiple times,” she writes, “because I was too drunk to say the words ‘Please. Stop.’ ” A troubled teen, she continued to take refuge in drinking but also discovered a passion for literature and drama. After a suicide attempt in college, Blair found her footing in acting. She moved to New York City, where, after a year of struggle, she found an agent and landed her first movie role. Drinking and toxic relationships took their tolls, and she entered rehab in Michigan before moving to Los Angeles. An unexpected invitation to play a role in the 1999 film Cruel Intentions brought her fame. However, the binge-drinking continued, as did a series of unhealthy relationships (one of which turned into a short-lived marriage) and mysterious pains that racked her body. “I could feel it growing and spreading,” she writes, “but I had no idea what it was.” Single motherhood helped her curb drinking, but her fatigue and neuralgia intensified. A lifelong spiritual seeker who sought out psychics to help her make sense of her life, Blair finally received an answer to explain the physical roots of her pain: multiple sclerosis. Though the narrative occasionally meanders, the author offers a sharp, memorable account of her roles as celebrity and MS advocate that will have wide appeal to both fans and general readers alike.

A moving and eloquent memoir.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-65949-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 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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