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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
In the memoir Lies & Cigars, Magazines & Pocketbooks, Kody Christiansen's life stages are told through a series of writings, poems, and reflections in a multitude of literary and art formats. Returning to Texas after a decade, the author confronts his past and embraces sobriety, offering glimpses into reunions and significant events in Bedford. Christiansen describes emotional book readings, childhood memories, and seeing those he once called friends. None of these is free of challenges, and we learn of Christiansen's personal struggles, relationships, and trauma as he delves into the importance of facing difficulties for closure. The aftermath of this involves forgiveness challenges and support from chosen family and friends, where Christiansen expresses growth through the experience and realizes that revisiting Texas wasn't as daunting as expected. Throughout, the author touches on themes of adolescence, self-discovery, family dynamics, acceptance, relationships, and the therapeutic role of poetry in a journey of resilience and authenticity against societal expectations.
I went into Lies & Cigars, Magazines & Pocketbooks, not knowing what to expect at all, and walked away with the belief that Kody Christiansen might just be one of the most multi-talented people on the planet. The writing is good—very, very good. The art is fantastic; whether it is photography or Monopoly sketches, paintings inspired by Vermeer, or ceramic studio art, it almost feels unfair that one person could be so gifted. Still, those gifts are hard-earned. For all his accomplishments, Christiansen fought to get there. I love the screenplays, and Heartbreak Dreams has some serious sizzle, but it's Christiansen's thesis-style coursework that stood out to me. Reading through his take on stereotypical sounds of females in film was an eye-opener, and it turned into a lengthy dinnertime conversation. I have to thank him for getting my teenage daughter to put down her phone and actually talk at the table. I read Christiansen's compilation of work in chronological order from start to finish, but the beauty of the book is that it is easy to go back and peruse again, revisiting certain pieces and elements independently. Overall, this is a well-written, well-constructed, and thoughtfully presented book. Very highly recommended.