Fresh and intelligent critiques of popular North American ideas about race and gender.

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS

ESSAYS ON LIP SERVICE

Social justice—or what passes for it—falls under the scrutiny of a Canadian voice actor, cultural critic, and editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine.

As a biracial Black performer who has done voice-over work in the U.S. and Canada for two decades, Isen has seen firsthand the many ways in which well-intentioned ideas on race, gender, and culture—whether promoted by liberals or conservatives—can hurt people they aim to help. In the nine essays in this stellar debut collection, the author probes the gap between expectation and reality. Her opening essay, “Hearing Voices,” sets the tone with its wry view of “the authenticity boom” that seeks to have Black animated characters voiced only by Black actors. “What Black characters?” Isen asks, adding that in 2018, only 3% of the lead or co-lead roles in animated films were for women of color and that an insistence on perfect “phenotypic match[ing]” between an actor and character “would shut too many of us out until further notice.” In “Tiny White People,” Isen examines the recent surge in anti-racist books, finding further evidence of Toni Morrison’s view that Black authors’ work gets read “as sociology, as tolerance, but not as a serious and rigorous art form,” and in “Diversity Hire,” she faults diversity initiatives that make companies “look progressive” without ending underlying injustices. Such issues are not solely American, she argues: See “Dead or Canadian,” which deflates the myth that “Canada does not have a racism problem, or an epidemic of police brutality,” or that its “national reverence for diversity is, like the politeness of its citizens, just there, unflappable and eternal.” Isen has a penchant for buzzwords that rob her work of some of its potential elegance, but as a whole, this book shows a bracing willingness to tackle sensitive issues that others often sweep under a rug.

Fresh and intelligent critiques of popular North American ideas about race and gender.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982178-42-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: One Signal/Atria

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

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GREENLIGHTS

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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