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

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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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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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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