A biography notable for its deep research.

OUR MAN DOWN IN HAVANA

THE STORY BEHIND GRAHAM GREENE'S COLD WAR SPY NOVEL

The enigmatic novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991) inspires a new investigation.

In his literary debut, Hull (Spanish & Latin American Studies/Univ. of Chester) minutely examines the plot, characters, context, creation, reception, filming, and afterlife of Greene’s 1958 satirical novel, Our Man in Havana. Drawing on Greene’s published and unpublished writings; studies and biographies of Greene; abundant archival material; and his own 17 visits to Cuba, Hull sets Greene’s life amid Cuba’s tumultuous history. Compared to “the Hemingway cult in Havana,” Greene’s “many visits to his preferred watering and feeding hole,” Hull laments, have gone unacknowledged. He aims to correct this oversight by meticulously documenting every step that Greene took, every diary entry he logged, and every letter he wrote to his wife and several mistresses concerning his many visits to Cuba and the writing and filming of his novel. Despite Hull’s valiant efforts, though, his portrait of Greene is overly familiar: a troubled man, restless, self-absorbed, and moody, a manic-depressive who sought relief from his “tormented self” (as well as his many romantic crises) by traveling to “risky, seedy, and distant troubled locations.” Among the seediest was pre-Castro Cuba, reputed to be “an uninhibited tropical paradise,” where gambling casinos, brothels, bars, and risqué nightclubs flourished. Beginning in 1954, with an unplanned two-night detour to Havana, Greene, with his “magnetic attraction to seediness,” partook of all Cuba’s offerings, including copious alcohol and illicit drugs. During many of his visits, Greene had little contact with Cubans, and the idea for Our Man in Havana originated, Hull reveals, in 1944, when a Brazilian film director asked Greene for a film outline and Greene decided to write a Secret Service comedy based on his own wartime observations. Although he did not draw on Cuban politics to represent duplicity and bungling among agents and politicians, Hull asserts that the novel reflected Cold War paranoia and proved prescient in its foreshadowing of the Cuban missile crisis.

A biography notable for its deep research.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-018-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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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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