A thoroughly engrossing work by an original voice—hopefully the first of many.

RAT GIRL

A MEMOIR

Funny, quirky coming-of-age story from a unique musical artist.

For her first work of nonfiction, Hersh (Toby Snax, 2007), best known as founder and principal songwriter of art-rock band Throwing Muses, revisited the journal she kept from the winter of 1985 through the spring of 1986, when her band made the critical decision to leave provincial Rhode Island and join Boston’s thriving music scene. It was a monumental year for Hersh personally, as well. At 18, she was a bit of an oddball. Hit by a car some years before, she started hearing—and seeing—music that she felt compelled to get out of her head and into the world. Other eccentricities may have preceded the accident: her dislike of being indoors, her refusal to wear glasses or lenses during shows so as not to make eye contact with her audiences, her need to swim in any available pool, with or without the permission of the owner. In the summer of 1985, Hersh suffered a frightening breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Refreshingly, though the book is not the kind of memoir that lingers in angst, perhaps because Hersh prefers to keep her delightfully childlike focus outward. Drawn to other outsiders, she had become close friends with one of her college-professor father’s favorite students, the former movie star Betty Hutton, who, then in her 60s, had become a devout Catholic and had nominally renounced her Hollywood past. One of the narrative’s many charms is Hersh’s apparently effortless, razor-sharp portraiture of the diverse characters in her life: Hutton; her former-hippie parents; her bandmates; a parade of music journalists, an Indian psychiatrist (Dr. Seven Syllables, she names him) who helped her navigate her illness without medication upon learning she was pregnant by an unnamed lover; the British record-label owner and his producer who took great pains to get her genius on tape.

A thoroughly engrossing work by an original voice—hopefully the first of many.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-14-311739-1

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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