A light, amusing work for fans of Wentworth’s quirky sense of humor.

ALI'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

TALES OF DESPERATION AND A LITTLE INSPIRATION

A collection of comedic vignettes about life during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In her latest book, actor and comedian Wentworth focuses on her life during the first year of the pandemic. The author contracted the virus in March 2020, forcing her to spend more than two weeks in isolation. She describes her surreal experience getting tested and the even more bizarre “fever dreams” that accompanied her illness, and she recounts how her husband’s (ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos) trip to the pharmacy to pick up her medicine made tabloid news. Wentworth also explores how our housecleaning standards changed for many of us during lockdown, and she shares the shock she felt regarding the state of her home when she emerged from isolation: “It was on par with a frat house after March Madness. It was Animal House. Literally and figuratively. As of that moment I wanted to put my family on double secret probation.” Like many of us, the author picked up some new hobbies during that time, including gardening and clamming (“Like diving for shells, there is a treasure-hunt element to the endeavor that I find irresistible”), and ate lots of junk food—not to mention spending an inordinate amount of time surfing the internet and watching TV. Once restrictions lifted, Wentworth ventured back out into the world, and she writes about getting lost and seeing a bear on a girls’ hiking trip and playing charades with Alan and Arlene Alda, Alec Baldwin, Marlo Thomas, and Phil Donahue. The author also shares poignant experiences from the time, including sending her daughter to college. “Think Cast Away, with my daughter as Wilson the volleyball,” she writes. While many readers will find plenty of relatable and/or laugh-out-loud moments, the author’s stories frequently diverge from the topic and include random, head-scratching details.

A light, amusing work for fans of Wentworth’s quirky sense of humor.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-062-98086-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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