Well-informed and -rendered, passionate reflections on humanity's prospects.

DESERT NOTEBOOKS

A ROAD MAP FOR THE END OF TIME

An urgent plea to revise our relationship to the planet, each other, and time.

Journalist Ehrenreich, a contributor to the Nation as well as many other publications, offers a thoughtful, often stirring, meditation on nature, myth, philosophy, politics, and time from the vantage of two starkly different desert environments: the “surging beauty” of Joshua Tree National Park and the assaulting seediness of Las Vegas. The desert, he observes, “enforces its own perspective. It shrinks you and puts eternity in the foreground.” Eternity is much on Ehrenreich’s mind as he considers the dismal prospect of “real, planetary disaster” and wonders whether literature, including the vocation of writing, may be pointless. The author is by turns melancholy, pensive, and, above all, angry: notably, at the “short-sighted, addled, deluded, demented, arrogant, venal, and vain” president he refers to as the Rhino; at climate change deniers; and at “overconfident elites” who propagate the ideology of progress. For Ehrenreich, progress is anathema. Along with a lyrical, freshly observed record of exploration, the author puts forth a manifesto against the prevalent, and destructive, notion of time—“the one that rules most of our lives and how we live them,” that insists on history as a linear progression exalting white Europeans, and that depends on “the illusion of eternal, self-sustaining growth” to justify the exploitation of peoples and environments. He draws on astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, and ethnography as well as Greek, Roman, Mayan, and various Indigenous people’s mythologies, especially as they evoke owls, widely depicted as “omens or messengers” of “death and war and maybe also wisdom.” Ehrenreich cites abundant literary and philosophical sources, including Borges, Beckett, Hegel, Rousseau, and Walter Benjamin, to create a rich tapestry of ideas that cohere into “an audit, a foreclosure, a notice to appear,” and a declaration of “the all-but-lost art of speaking truth to power.”

Well-informed and -rendered, passionate reflections on humanity's prospects.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-353-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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

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GREENLIGHTS

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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