From the dental work and the tan to the madness in his humor as a TV personality and his gunslinging, Barris has always been...

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BAD GRASS NEVER DIES

MORE CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND

Barris may well be living purely in his extravagant head, but this sequel to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (1984) has enough off-balance humor and burnished bravado to keep readers tuned in.

As in that earlier “memoir,” the man who brought us The Gong Show, The Newlywed Game, and The Dating Game claims to also be a professional gunny for the US government, taking out bad guys and gals globally, intimately, and with what appears to be his tongue so firmly in his cheek, it’s a wonder it doesn’t rupture a vessel. The action proceeds from the mid-’70s through today, taking Barris from the top of the TV heap (where he was bored and disenchanted) through a pink slip from TV bigwigs to a spell in New York–Presbyterian’s ICU to marriage to the woman of his dreams. Along the way, during breaks from his game-hosting duties, Barris works as a CIA operative, a hit man ridding the planet of nefarious terrorist creatures. As a writer, Barris goes for the bluntly vivid: “Miguel Agular . . . was one despicable son of a bitch . . . a relentless, vicious little animal”; in Mexico City, “the streets were jammed packed with steaming people, the sidewalks with steaming dog shit.” As a Company man, he’s reluctant, because he’s getting old, but he takes assignments nevertheless, because if he doesn’t the CIA will whack him with the same insouciance it displays when killing terrorists. Barris is surprisingly good at painting character portraits of his CIA overseers and his quarries, but the story plays out over such tenuous, dreamy, comic terrain, it all feels like celluloid from the start. Not so his relationships with women, each depicted as a genuine person rather than a trophy, nor his visit with lung cancer.

From the dental work and the tan to the madness in his humor as a TV personality and his gunslinging, Barris has always been touched by the surreal, and it fits foursquare into this piece of work.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1379-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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