Never mind, the flaws are minor and can be disregarded. Pyron tells an immensely entertaining story that should be...

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LIBERACE

AN AMERICAN BOY

An entertaining and rewarding biography of the pianist and entertainer whose fans’ adoration was equaled only by his critics’ loathing.

“I cried all the way to the bank,” was Wladziu Valentino Liberace’s response to his many detractors. Historian Pyron (Southern Daughter, 1991) admits his initial reluctance taking on Liberace’s biography, but he came to respect the pianist as he learned more about him. He persuasively argues that Liberace, thoroughly and rigorously trained, was a genuine musician as well a brilliant showman. His early conventional concerts usually received favorable notices, and many critics were enthusiastic. From his youth, however, Liberace had always preferred entertainment to recitals: thus his costumes and sets grew increasingly extravagant and he added popular music to his programs. This vulgarization, along with his frequently professed conservative midwestern values, proved too much for the high priests of 1950s Modernism. Led by the likes of Howard Taubman of the New York Times, critics lambasted Liberace wherever he appeared in reviews that were breathtakingly virulent. Many of his attackers, in those pre-Stonewall days, made astonishingly nasty allusions to his effeminate nature. Liberace, much liked by those who worked with him, took the broadsides mostly benignly, although he did sue and collect from the loathsome William “Cassandra” Connor (Britain’s answer to Westbrook Pegler) for a particularly vicious bit of homo-baiting. Pyron points out that, in the mid-1950s, for Liberace to have come out of the closet would have meant a certain end to his career: he thus did as much as he could (including lying under oath) to hide his proclivities. When simply narrating this uniquely American story, Pyron does a fine job, but he has an annoying tendency to make far-fetched allusions (e.g., to the ceremonies of the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, as well as the Antinomian and Arminian heresies). In addition, Pyron is not terribly well-versed in classical music—and this leads to such gaffes as referring to pianist Earl Wilde as a jazz musician.

Never mind, the flaws are minor and can be disregarded. Pyron tells an immensely entertaining story that should be fascinating and pleasurable to anyone with an interest in American popular culture. (50 photographs, unseen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-226-68667-1

Page Count: 482

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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