An outstanding biography of a man of incomprehensible brilliance.



One of the great geniuses of the 20th century, barely known outside academia today, receives a much-needed expert biographical treatment.

Regarding his subject, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978), Budiansky writes, “Einstein had called him ‘the greatest logician since Aristotle,’ and even in Princeton, that town with more Nobel Prize winners than traffic lights, his otherworldly genius had stood out.” Born to a prosperous family in Austria-Hungary, Gödel was brilliant from the start. He entered the University of Vienna in 1924 to study physics but became attracted to mathematics and philosophy. During the 1920s, Vienna was a world center for both disciplines, and Gödel’s talents were quickly recognized. Many readers are unaware that nothing in science is proven. The law of gravity states that things fall down only because things always fall down. No proof exists that they can’t fall up. Only mathematics produces absolute proofs. Mathematicians find this deeply satisfying, but they are still recovering from the shock of Gödel’s great discovery, in the early 1930s, that many systems in mathematics, while true, can’t be proven. Although a historic milestone, it’s an exceedingly difficult concept; readers with some background in college mathematics will be best-suited to comprehending the author’s explanations. Fortunately, Budiansky writes so well that this is no problem. Although Gödel remains the focus of this terrific book, the author delivers insightful portraits of a score of brilliant men and women, almost all German or Austrian, descriptions of their work and academic struggles in early-20th-century Europe, and their lives after Hitler destroyed German science. Many moved to the U.S., where they encountered a land of Eden, especially Princeton, “a picturesque pre-Revolutionary village attached to the university campus.” Barely escaping Vienna in 1940, Gödel settled at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, became a close friend of Einstein, and continued groundbreaking work despite increasing periods of obsession and paranoid delusion, which eventually led to his death via slow starvation.

An outstanding biography of a man of incomprehensible brilliance.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00544-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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

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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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