A fruitful, well-written blend of cultural history, literary criticism, and biography. Now the only question is, where’s the...

JACK LONDON

A WRITER'S FIGHT FOR A BETTER AMERICA

Jack London—socialist agitator, rancher, and, oh yes, writer: an illuminating study of a literary figure long receded into stereotype.

Tichi’s (English and American Studies/Vanderbilt Univ.; Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (and What They Teach Us), 2009, etc.) resurrection of London and her elevation of him from writer of hoary Arctic tales for children to wizened philosopher of the barricades is certainly timely. He lived in the first Gilded Age, a time “undershot with stupendous wealth inequality, cycles of joblessness…and an imperial global presence that brought indigenous populations to heel while exploiting their natural resources.” Though London was a marquee writer whose work elevated him from want to wealth, he remained true to his working-class roots and never surrendered his vision of an America reformed to allow for a greater share for all. He conveyed this vision in sometimes heavy-handed ways, as with his late novel The Iron Heel (1908), but Tichi credits him for displaying “a certain subtlety.” London’s message rings true in such books as White Fang (1906) but never at the expense of a walloping good story. Tichi traces the growth of London’s activism as he moved from place to place, especially when he visited the South Pacific and saw predatory capitalism at work undisguised: “In boyhood he had seen the flags of distant nations flying from the masts along the Oakland waterfront….Many of those flags signified political, corporate, and military power, and the word for that nexus was ‘imperialism.’ ” Tichi also limns a London who was far more evolved than the square-jawed prizefighter and adventurer of legend, a sophisticated political thinker who brought immense learning to bear—not least on his work establishing what today we would call an organic farm not far from San Francisco, building a vast working knowledge of agriculture, construction, irrigation, and other fields.

A fruitful, well-written blend of cultural history, literary criticism, and biography. Now the only question is, where’s the Jack London of today?

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4696-2266-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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