McCarron successfully makes a mysterious figure a touch less mysterious.

READ REVIEW

LIGHT COME SHINING

THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF BOB DYLAN

An academic and poet gamely attempts to unravel Bob Dylan’s cryptic psyche.

This slim, occasionally dense study could easily be retitled “Bob’s Three Crises,” framed as it is by a trio of what McCarron (Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics/Trinity School, New York City; Mysterium: Poems, 2015, etc.) deems major turning points in the songwriter’s life and career: his 1966 motorcycle accident, his mid-1970s conversion to Christianity, and his newfound creative spark in the late 1980s. All three, argues the author, are manifestations of a consistent “script” in which Dylan confronts his fear of death, becomes transfigured, and channels that transfiguration in new ways into his music. In coming to these conclusions, McCarron had no assistance from Dylan himself or those close to him; this work of “psychobiography” is based solely on a close study of Dylan’s interviews, writing, and performances. Though the author’s discussion of psychobiology is often leaden, overall the book is an insightful and often persuasive work, particularly in how spiritual themes (especially apocalyptic ones) persist in Dylan’s music. (Counter to the assumption that Dylan cast off his Christianity sometime in the early 1980s, McCarron finds plenty of evidence that the faith still matters to him.) Beyond Dylan’s music career, McCarron also explores the influence of his Jewish background, his growing up during the Cold War, and his upbringing in rural Minnesota as playing essential roles in his story. Themes of escape and despair keep pushing him to write his own story, oftentimes making up pieces of his biography. Though McCarron isn’t prone to rhapsodizing about Dylan’s music, his critical remove has an upside: rather than focusing on the touchstones that fans would highlight, he explores less-appreciated works that Dylan himself was passionate about—e.g., the film flop Renaldo and Clara or his much-performed song “In the Garden.” In the process, he suggests an alternate history that feels closer to reality than mythology.

McCarron successfully makes a mysterious figure a touch less mysterious.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-931347-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

OPEN BOOK

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

Did you like this book?

more