"Don't give him fucking coke!" So screams John Belushi's wife Judy on the first page of this enervating, pointless docu-drama. And that's how it goes for over 400 pages: working from interviews with 267 people, Woodward offers—without shape, depth, or viewpoint—the dankly depressing, morbidly detailed life of John Belushi, comic actor and (above all) epic drug-user. After a disproportionately brief chapter on his early background, campus cut-up Belushi is suddenly in 1971 Chicago with the Second City comedy troupe; he and girlfriend Judy are into drugs; by page 58 he's in N.Y., in the comedy-revue hit Lemmings. ("He was the star of the show for sure, indelibly certified in the newspaper of record, the New York-fucking-Times.") And then it's on to Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s, as the pace slows to a crawl in order to document each drug-deal, each snort, each backstage wrangle. Envious of Chevy Chase, "driven to become famous," Belushi became increasingly dependent on cocaine and Quaaludes; while Judy and others cut back on their drug habits, his escalated. Despite the loyalty of Judy (Woodward's primary source) and pal Dan Aykroyd, Belushi was insecure; there were love/hate relationships with his drug-connections, odd liaisons with Barbara Howar (maternal, platonic) and Carly Simon. (She "still loved John. His crazy, impulsive boldness broke down her acute shyness. And they were both reaching for more in their art.") The making of his feature films was to become a nightmare for all concerned—including the benumbed reader: the bomb Neighbors is followed from conception to distribution here, with minutiae and anecdotes, as if it were Gone With the Wind. And eventually, out in L.A., working on problematic movie-projects, Belushi added heroin to his fix, with the well-known fatal results. Woodward adds little to the record when it comes to Belushi's not-very-mysterious death; throughout, in fact, his investigative-journalist approach falls flat—there being nothing much worth investigating. Above all, Woodward seems to have no idea of what's involved in turning bare facts (or reconstructed dialogue) into a satisfying biography. So the result here, though scrupulously documented, is a dreary, empty chronicle, with enough real substance, perhaps, for a New York magazine article; and its audience will be limited to SNL buffs (skit transcripts, backstage tattle) and those with a passionate interest in the drug-habits of such celebs as Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, Treat Williams, Tony Curtis, Carrie Fisher, and Betty Buckley.

Pub Date: June 1, 1984

ISBN: 1451655592

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1984

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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 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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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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