The first major biography since Hayden Herrera’s 1983 work presents the artist in all her ferocious complexity.

FRIDA IN AMERICA

THE CREATIVE AWAKENING OF A GREAT ARTIST

An art historian parses the famed artist’s complicated psychological and emotional states while in America as a young wife and emerging artist in the early 1930s.

Stahr (Modern American and Contemporary Art/Univ. of San Francisco) captures Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) in all her ambiguity at age 23, when she embarked on her first American tour with her new husband, famous muralist Diego Rivera. As the author shows, she moved into this uneasy public role while also passionately pursuing her own difficult work. Diminutive in stature and unwell due to an early bout of polio and a terrible car accident in her late teens, Kahlo, like Rivera, was deeply devoted to her Mexican identity as well as socialist ideals. These beliefs would both alienate their American patrons, as in Rivera’s case, and attract the avant-garde, as in Kahlo’s case in New York, where she had her first solo show in 1938. In 1930, visiting San Francisco for the first time, as Rivera painted his commission for the California School of Fine Arts, and then through their stints in Detroit and New York over the next three years, Kahlo devoured the strange sights and used her experiences to inspire her art. She made friends with women artists especially—e.g., Dorothea Lange, Lucienne Bloch, and Georgia O’Keeffe—experimented with her Indigenous (now iconic) wardrobe as she became a darling subject of photographers, grew embittered by her husband’s serial infidelities, and had a devastating miscarriage. All of this served as fuel for her early groundbreaking portraits and self-portraits, which were full of symbolism and blood and gore. Stahr sees the emergent artist’s powers explode in My Birth, an unsettling painting from 1932 that addressed Kahlo’s miscarriage, the recent death of her mother, and her own self-creation. The author’s deep study of Kahlo’s symbolic layering is highly informative, though some of the detail may be overwhelming for readers not versed in art history.

The first major biography since Hayden Herrera’s 1983 work presents the artist in all her ferocious complexity.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11338-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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