Yet more compelling work from a unique mind.

MAYBE IT’S ME

ON BEING THE WRONG KIND OF WOMAN

A master of the long-form personal essay discourses on a variety of subjects.

Novelist, physicist, and writing professor Pollack serves up 16 essays, some previously published in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, New England Review, and other literary journals, digging deep into memoir material and other topics of interest to her. Among others, these include whether the shah of Iran could possibly be Jewish, as a friend of her family claimed, and a critical dissection of an antiquated sex education book she was given as a child. “The hideous black-and-white diagram of 'the mother's reproductive system' resembled a disapproving, big-nosed secretary in hideous cat's eye glasses, while the map of 'the father's reproductive system' reminded me of an evil alien with testicles for eyes and a penis and foreskin for the nose," she writes. The author’s candor, curiosity, humor, and gift for phrasemaking are engaging regardless of the topic, many of which are misfortunes of varying severity. Pollack’s childhood was largely unhappy, as she was singled out in school for both her intelligence and her orneriness, but many of her classmates, it turns out, suffered much worse. Later in life, she was “peed on, shot at, and kidnapped”—all in one summer. After her marriage, which produced her lovely son ("I Tried To Raise a Jew and He Turned Out a Communist"), she had little luck with men. There was the "Righteous Gentile”—"When I told my mother I was dating a Polish Catholic, the abyss that opened in our conversation was so deep and dark I could see three generations of our family tumble into it"—followed by a slew of lesser men, documented in the title essay, aptly subtitled "The One Woman Show I'll Never Perform in Public." Why not? At almost 30 pages, it's ripe for a comedy special.

Yet more compelling work from a unique mind.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-953002-07-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WILL

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

Did you like this book?

more