Even those who only dimly remember Royce White, Pavement, or Gnarls Barkley will find the reflections on them engaging.

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CHUCK KLOSTERMAN X

A HIGHLY SPECIFIC, DEFIANTLY INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY

A collection of journalistic pieces that remain provocative, or at least interesting, even if the subjects that inspired them have faded from memory.

In his 10th book, pop-culture contrarian Klosterman (But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present as If It Were the Past, 2016, etc.) suggests that he has matured more gracefully than many of those he has written about. He built his career as the anti-critic critic, the guy who embraced hair metal and didn’t care much for a lot of what music critics claimed to love. Or, as he writes in one of his more recent introductions to older pieces, “one of the things I love about covering uncool artists is that groups widely described as ‘hated’ are almost always more popular than groups who are described as ‘beloved,’ ” referring to a piece on the critically reviled Creed and Nickelback. On that same page, he remarks, of a longer retrospective, “I don’t expect most people who buy this book will read a ten-thousand-word essay on KISS. It is, however, twice as good as a five-thousand-word essay on KISS.” Though it has been tempting to dismiss Klosterman as a one-trick pony, claiming black where others (in print at least) see white, the best work offers insight into the relations among artist, art, and audience that goes considerably deeper. The profiles of Taylor Swift, Kobe Bryant, and Jonathan Franzen will leave readers with fresh appreciation for both the subjects and the journalist, who understands how the three are similar in terms of what they have accomplished and what challenges they have faced in terms of popular perception. It is possible that nobody has ever understood Swift better on the page, while the Franzen piece falls a little short of that for reasons Klosterman explains: “We are both working writers with vaguely similar lives. He, however, is more talented, more successful, and considerably more respected….There was a power imbalance, recognized by both of us.”

Even those who only dimly remember Royce White, Pavement, or Gnarls Barkley will find the reflections on them engaging.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18415-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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