It was poetry that offered succor, yet Turner, in this arresting memoir, still cannot quite answer his overriding question:...

MY LIFE AS A FOREIGN COUNTRY

A MEMOIR

In his surpassingly sad and disquieting memoir, poet Turner (Phantom Noise, 2010, etc.) has rendered an unusual anomaly: cogent delirium.

Some have said a poet should join astronauts in space so we could know what it's really like. In Turner, we have sent a poet to war, and we are much closer to knowing its kaleidoscopic face; as profound sympathy washes over the reader, so does the war's horror. Alternately stark and surreal, Turner's chronicle is a textured confluence of the ages, connected by classic verse, history and arresting metaphor. He surveys a landscape of ghosts from all of humanity's wars, wraiths who walk the streets and battlefields and rise like mist from the rivers. Throughout, he is haunted by moral ambiguities. On the ground, or in dreams hovering above the fray, Turner has the acuity to see through others' eyes: a bomb maker, quietly assembling “Death's cold and metallic invitation”; an Iraqi doctor surveying the carnage; a child kissing her father's cheek; a Turkish cook, dying. The author locates the intoxication and pathology of war in a wild terrain “where profound questions are given a violent and inexorable response,” a realm bereft of reason where generation after generation of soldiers have marched to oblivion or lasting anguish. Why did a man of such sensitivity and clarity of perception feel compelled to fight in Iraq, even when he knew it made no sense? Turner doesn't know, and he dismisses each of the motivations as delusions. But, marinated in the martial ethic of his father, the author joined the infantry, prepared to be “low, cold and reptilian” and to live with fear.

It was poetry that offered succor, yet Turner, in this arresting memoir, still cannot quite answer his overriding question: How does anyone leave behind a war, its deep reservoirs of trauma and ruined worlds, and somehow waltz into the rest of his life?

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24501-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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