A vivid depiction of the powerful religious forces that Rumi transcended to reveal “the sound of one soul speaking.”




An appreciative biography of the 13th-century Persian poet, teacher, and mystic.

In researching the life of Rumi (1207-1273), Gooch (English/William Paterson Univ.; Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard and Art and the ’70s and the ’80s, 2015, etc.) traced the poet’s steps through the Middle East, immersed himself in scholarship, and, impressively, spent years learning Persian in order to translate Rumi’s works and contemporary accounts of a poet who came to achieve enormous international popularity for his “emphasis on ecstasy and love over religions and creeds.” Born into privilege, the son of a religious teacher, Rumi was an eager student of history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, Arabic grammar, commentaries on the Quran, and religious law; he attended the most respected colleges, preparing to become “a religious jurist and guider of souls.” As Genghis Khan, and later his grandson, rampaged through the Middle East, Rumi was determined to rise above the “churning realpolitik of the Mongols,” confident that a higher power shaped historical events. His career as a scholar and teacher altered radically when he met Shams of Tabriz, “a singular outlier mystic in a history crowded with extreme religious seekers.” Shams was rude and uncompromising, opposite in personality from the gentle Rumi, but the two formed an intense bond, which Gooch sees as the essential secret of Rumi’s life and work. They withdrew together for many months, inciting jealousy among Rumi’s family. Shams goaded Rumi into sloughing off erudition and looking into his heart, introducing him to music, dance, extreme fasting, and ecstatic whirling. Gooch is generous in portraying 60-year-old Shams’ marriage to Rumi’s teenage stepdaughter as inspired by “late-life blossoming of desire,” despite evidence of the man’s oppressive treatment of his young wife, which ended in her suspicious death. After two and a half years, Shams disappeared, possibly murdered, and Rumi despaired. But his influence lasted for the rest of the poet’s life, emerging in an outpouring of verse, which Gooch explores with passion and insight.

A vivid depiction of the powerful religious forces that Rumi transcended to reveal “the sound of one soul speaking.”

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-199914-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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


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

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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