An engrossing portrait of a cartooning genius.

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BILL MAULDIN

A LIFE UP FRONT

Entertaining biography of a poor boy who entered the military as a teenager and became perhaps the greatest war cartoonist of all time, thanks to a couple of GIs named Willie and Joe.

Mauldin (1921–2003) had a hardscrabble childhood in Depression-era New Mexico, avers DePastino (Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America, 2003). His destitute parents made no objection when he left home at 14 to live in Phoenix, where he attended high school and tried to support himself by cartooning, a lifelong passion. Sales were rare, so he enlisted in the Arizona National Guard on September 12, 1940. Four days later, the Guard was mobilized as part of the U.S. Army, and a month after that he was drawing a weekly cartoon for the 45th Division News. Aided by generous illustrations, DePastino, who edited a collection of Mauldin’s cartoons (Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, 2008), does a superb job explaining the evolution of his technique. Unlike other bungling comic-strip soldiers from Sad Sack to Beetle Bailey, Willie and Joe were competent infantrymen who hated their job but plugged away. By the time the 45th landed in Italy, Mauldin’s devastatingly funny portrayals of the utter misery of battle, combined with digs at superior officers and noncombatants, had made the cartoons both wildly popular and controversial; his superior officers had to protect him from other superior officers infuriated by his satire. By 1944, national magazines were syndicating his work, and publishers eagerly offered book contracts. Although Mauldin went on to great success as an editorial cartoonist, DePastino argues that his life peaked when he was 24, the year he won his first Pulitzer and the final year of the war. His fiercely obsessive ambition kept him at work day and night, exacting a toll on his stormy personal life.

An engrossing portrait of a cartooning genius.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06183-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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