Intelligent, thoughtful, and deliciously gossipy: a must for anyone interested in book publishing.

DEAR DONALD, DEAR BENNETT

THE WARTIME CORRESPONDENCE OF BENNETT CERF AND DONALD KLOPFER

Charming WWII-era letters exchanged by the founders of Random House.

Both men were too old to be drafted (Cerf was 43 in 1942, Klopfer 40), but their correspondence sparkles with the youthful joie de vivre of people who love their work. Quiet, modest Klopfer writes only a little about his service as an intelligence officer in England; the letters mainly concern Random House business, discussed by Cerf with the ebullience familiar to readers of his popular humor books and the memoir At Random (1977). They describe book publishing in its pre-corporate heyday, when selling 100,000 copies of a new title like Guadalcanal Diary was a huge achievement, and maintaining the backlist was still a primary concern for a hardcover publisher. The winds of change are in the air, though, as Random snaps up a major interest in Grosset & Dunlap, snatching it away from hated rival Simon & Schuster because Cerf can see that in the future making a “package offer” to authors including paperback and book club deals will provide a crucial commercial edge. His partner was less sanguine about these developments. “Will Random House be any fun at all as a ‘big business’ instead of our very personal venture?” he writes in 1944. We can see how personal relations were among the staff, as Cerf recounts marital breakups, alcohol-soaked dinners, and weekends by the pool with key members of the Random team. The extended running joke concerning the men’s secretary, nicknamed “Jezebel”—her supposed love for fur coats, her bosses’ alleged lust for her—will strike many modern readers as sexist and patronizing, but the intent is so obviously affectionate that they’ll be inclined to forgive this manifestation of another generation’s attitudes. Klopfer’s and Cerf’s deep love for each other permeates every page of this delightful book to make it a moving record of friendship as well as an illuminating snapshot of American cultural history.

Intelligent, thoughtful, and deliciously gossipy: a must for anyone interested in book publishing.

Pub Date: March 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50768-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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