This addictive, witty, David Sedaris–esque story is a hoot.



An affectionate, introspective memoir from the acclaimed cartoonist.

Early on in this engaging, pleasure-filled autobiography, Sipress points out that it took decades of pitching the New Yorker before they bought one of his cartoons in 1997. He’s been a regular ever since. In crisp, clean, anecdotal prose, he chronicles his life story, his mischievous cartooning, and the germination of his ideas, with many included for readers to appreciate. “Like most cartoonists I know,” he writes, “the border between my life and my work is flimsy at best.” There’s just enough to sate cartoon fans, but most of the book covers the author’s happy years growing up Jewish in New York City with a loving family, his marriage, and his struggles to make it financially as a cartoonist. “As a kid I loved cartoons,” he writes, especially those in the New Yorker. Jumping ahead, Sipress discusses his conversations with his therapist about his “cartoon brain, which I never shut off, even in the most inappropriate situations, like in yoga class.” Comic timing is crucial in a cartoon; “it lives in the space between the caption and the drawing.” What comes first, image or caption? Either way. When the former, it unfolds just as it will for the reader. The author’s come from his “personal reservoir of thoughts and feelings.” At Williams College, he studied history, which figures prominently in his cartoons, and later Soviet studies at Harvard, but when “funny drawings were spilling over his [notebook] margins, he quit. Sipress secured a job cartooning for the Boston Phoenix but moved back to New York to pursue a brief career as a sculptor, which gave him skills he deploys in his cartoons. Throughout, he traverses the complex dilemma of cartooning amid family deaths and tragedies. When an idea for a cartoon clicks, he gets an “intense physical pleasure that feels like pure joy” and “makes me love what I do.”

This addictive, witty, David Sedaris–esque story is a hoot.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-65909-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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 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 refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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