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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

F*CK IT, I'LL START TOMORROW

The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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