An entertaining, down-to-earth remembrance and a fine guide for actors seeking to master their craft.

ON ACTING...AND LIFE

A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD CRAFT

Davis’ second memoir focuses less on the actor’s time on The X-Files and more on the theory and practice that make good actors great.

This charismatic follow-up to Where There’s Smoke…The Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (2011) is half personal recollections and half acting handbook, though acting theory weaves through the former and memory colors the latter to great effect. Davis starred in radio programs as a child and later studied at LAMDA theater school in London; his signature role came years later, when he appeared as a shady villain on The X-Files, but he’s had a long and busy career in TV and films. He writes with directorial verve and delivers his wisdom with the confidence of a seasoned professional who’s had a lifetime to figure out what works and what falls flat. In the section “Tricks, Traps, and Techniques,” he asserts that “an actor must be selfish. You must do it to please yourself.” One imagines that, with this book, he’s following his own advice, yet there’s no navel-gazing here; he writes with his audience in mind, never dwelling too much on the past or falling prey to nostalgia or sentimentalism, although he does allow himself occasional moments of well-earned “back in my day” derision. From tips on learning lines and what to do with one’s hands on stage (“find a truthful activity”) to how to engage with directors, Davis combines lessons he’s learned during a 60-year career with advice from teachers and colleagues who influenced him. Curious readers with a casual interest in theater will find this to be a charming, unpretentious, and pithy work from a cleareyed practitioner. Students of acting will find it an entertaining and useful reference that focuses on the concrete over the abstract and the practical over the rhapsodic to create convincing performances. Davis, it turns out, has the chops to be successful onscreen, in the director’s chair, and on the page.

An entertaining, down-to-earth remembrance and a fine guide for actors seeking to master their craft.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-03-912427-1

Page Count: 293

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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 fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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