One of many get-some exhortations by veterans of recent wars, but with plenty of merit.

SCARS AND STRIPES

AN UNAPOLOGETICALLY AMERICAN STORY OF FIGHTING THE TALIBAN, UFC WARRIORS, AND MYSELF

A mixture of memoir and motivational text that celebrates the power of learning from mistakes—to say nothing of pounding people senseless.

If there’s a fight going on anywhere in the world, whether on the mean streets, in the ring, or in Tora Bora, look for Kennedy to be in the thick of it. “I’ve killed evil men on multiple continents, fought in main-event bouts in the UFC, served as a Green Beret, an EMT, a firefighter, and a cop,” he writes. “I’ve hunted Nazis, drug runners, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, human traffickers, rhino poachers, Al Qaeda, the Taliban…and I’m just warming up.” Writing with Palmisciano, the author recounts his adventures with perhaps unexpected ruefulness: He admits to messing up big time on many occasions, especially when it comes to dealing with the admonitions and demands of authority figures, and allows that there may be some truth in some of the bad things he’s been called. Owning one’s errors, Kennedy counsels, is part of what makes a hero a hero. At the end of the book, commemorating hitting the ripe old age of 42, he looks forward to “a whole new amazing year of failure and suffering.” In between, he delivers plenty of action. In Houston and other locales, he has taken on drug dealers, pimps, gunrunners, and kidnappers, who are often one and the same: “Assholes are assholes, and a person willing to deal in one form of human misery is likely willing to deal with all forms, so long as they can turn a profit.” In Iraq and Afghanistan, he found heroes and villains among both his fellow soldiers and the civilian population. In Chile and Argentina, he discovered unrepentant Nazis, the basis for the hit History Channel show Hunting Hitler. And so on, in bare-chested stories that often end with self-effacing debriefings on what went wrong as much as right.

One of many get-some exhortations by veterans of recent wars, but with plenty of merit.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982-19091-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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 sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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