A gentleman scholar and scold, Will continues to wield his sharp, discerning prose.

AMERICAN HAPPINESS AND DISCONTENTS

THE UNRULY TORRENT, 2008-2020

An overstuffed collection of the conservative columnist’s reviews and rarefied reflections from the Washington Post, geared toward his enduring “intellectually upscale” readers.

Organized by themes—American history, politics, baseball, obituaries, and books by favorite authors such as Max Hastings, Ron Chernow, and Rick Atkinson—this latest gathering of Will’s writing aspires to what he calls “trenchant elegance.” More often than not, he attains it. Railing against big government and the overreach of the executive branch, the author, well known for his old-school, small-L libertarianism and arch mannerisms, often returns to definitive moments in the ongoing story of America, such as the Cold War, the moon landing, and the JFK assassination. Regarding Hastings’ excellent recent book, Vietnam, Will writes, “Vietnam remains an American sorrow of squandered valor….U.S. statesmen and commanders, Hastings writes, lied too much to the nation and the world but most calamitously to themselves.” Some of Will’s irritations include the modern lack of civil discourse; presidential “prolixity” (the former president appears by name sparingly: “this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron”), the “scandal” of mass incarceration and the overcriminalization of American life; and emotional support animals in airplanes. A deeply erudite, always opinionated commentator, Will laments the erosion of literacy and advocates for binge-reading rather than binge-watching, and he parses the intricacies of recent Supreme Court cases with authority. The author concludes this volume with tributes to some of his fallen heroes, such as Margaret Thatcher (“She had the smooth, cold surface of a porcelain figurine, but her decisiveness made her the most formidable woman in twentieth-century politics, and England’s most formidable woman since its greatest sover­eign, Elizabeth I”), Ronald Reagan, and, of course, National Review founder William F. Buckley, “the 20th century’s most consequential journalist.”

A gentleman scholar and scold, Will continues to wield his sharp, discerning prose.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-306-92441-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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