An absorbing but flawed memoir of a male teacher’s abuse of a young female student.

BEING LOLITA

A MEMOIR

A New York writer recalls her affair with a predatory teacher who told her, “You’re my Lolita.”

By the age of 18, Wood had undergone electroconvulsive therapy and taken more than 20 medications, “ranging from Prozac to lithium,” for medical problems including self-mutilation and suicidal depression. Her fragile mental health had put her high school graduation at risk. As a 17-year-old senior, she began getting help outside of class from a 27-year-old male English teacher, a Lolita fan she calls Nick North. She soon fell into an abusive romance described in this uneven memoir that overstretches parallels to Nabokov’s tale of a pedophile who rapes his 12-year-old stepdaughter. At furtive meetings at diners, Nick read Lolita to her and ruthlessly exploited her trust. Fearful of being fired, he insisted she start dating someone else as a cover for their romance, which she did, guiltily and briefly. He refused to sleep with her until she’d graduated but cruelly told her about his interim girlfriend. He persuaded her to attend Ithaca College by implying that he might go back to school at Cornell, then visited erratically until she broke up with him and later began her own teaching career. Wood tells her tale swiftly and suspensefully, but the writing can be wooden (she wants “to impact my students in supportive, meaningful ways”) and novelistically purple (“I looked up at him from inside his arms and tried to tell him Kiss me just kiss me please kiss me…and instead he squeezed me harder and let me go”). At heart, this is a potboiler with a gloss of literary street cred, and Wood may suspect it: “Sometimes I worry that the whole Lolita intertextuality is just a conceit, a clever way to elevate what happened to me, to raise it above the tawdry.” Many readers will also suspect it, but others will be turning the pages too fast to care.

An absorbing but flawed memoir of a male teacher’s abuse of a young female student.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-25021-721-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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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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