Perhaps no one “can document a life in all its richness,” but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of...

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BEAUTIFUL SHADOW

A LIFE OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

A closely drawn portrait of the writer who “celebrated irrationality, chaos and emotional anarchy, and regarded the criminal as the perfect example of the twentieth-century existentialist hero.”

British journalist Wilson uses Highsmith’s diaries, notebooks, letters, and interviews to catch (in her own words) her “moods, fits, and daily activities.” Perhaps best known for Strangers on a Train and her Ripley novels, Highsmith (1921–95) was never easy on her readers, says Wilson. Her work was often macabre and transgressive, noir and existential, drawing upon evil’s banality and life’s strange forces (“Each person carries around in himself a terrible other world of hell and the unknown,” she wrote in her notebook). Highsmith herself comes across as a distinctive character: she was reserved (“This is the tragedy of the conscience-stricken young homosexual, that he not only conceals his sex objectives, but conceals his humanity and natural warmth of heart as well,” she wrote, though she later became comfortable with her lesbianism); footloose; bereft of moral certainties (“I myself have a criminal bent. . . . I have a lurking liking for those who flout the law which I realise is despicable of me”); maybe even, as a friend noted, possessing “a form of high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.” Her relationships were many and urgent, and she had a quirky enough character to provide diverting stories, like the one of smuggling pet snails into France by hiding them under her breasts. But it’s the dark side that most fascinates Wilson, the warped perspectives of Highsmith’s central characters, their attractions and antagonisms, and her desire “to explore the diseases produced by sexual repression . . . like peculiar vermin in a stagnant well.”

Perhaps no one “can document a life in all its richness,” but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of angles and showing the splinters of identity in his subject that she herself found so captivating. (Two 8-page b&w photo inserts, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-198-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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