Funny, gimlet-eyed and unpretentious—someone get this woman a talk show.



Acclaimed actress Leachman reflects on a distinguished career and unconventional life.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Leachman has been a fixture in the pop-culture firmament for five decades, winning nine Emmy Awards (a record for an actor) and an Oscar for her downbeat performance in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show. Her memoir takes a frank stroll down a particularly verdant memory lane, recounting her life and times in no particular chronological or thematic order, veering into endless digressions and asides. The result is charming and frequently engrossing. Assisted by co-author and husband Englund (The Way It’s Never Been Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando (2004), Leachman discusses many topics in salty, don’t-give-a-damn language. Even when discussing the addiction and death of her son Bryan, she is grimly sardonic about her own “drug”: “it’s got higher lethality than all of his combined. Your drug is hope, and you won’t, you can’t, you don’t know how to give it up.” Leachman remembers Robert F. Kennedy as “cold” and laments the Kennedy brothers’ shabby treatment of Marilyn Monroe. Her memories of Marlon Brando include dismay at his selfishness and chaotic family life as well as admiration for his humor and talent. She provides a fascinating look at the Actors Studio in its heyday, startling revelations about romantic trysts (Bobby Darin! Gene Hackman!), an honest depiction of her marriage (temporarily broken up at one point by Joan Collins), an account of a terrifying early-stage experience with an imperious Katharine Hepburn and a bracing description of her tenure on Dancing with the Stars, which she joined as an octogenarian. Self-characterized as mouthy and irreverent, Leachman delights with her candor in a host of delicious anecdotes. Her MTM co-star Ed Asner might not agree, however; her account of a sexual wager between them, its outcome and his subsequent reaction, is priceless and embarrassing.

Funny, gimlet-eyed and unpretentious—someone get this woman a talk show.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2963-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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 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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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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