A quick, humorous memoir about storytelling, on and off the stage.

FALLING OFF BROADWAY

A MEMOIR

Black (The Magic of Theater, 1993, etc.), in his new memoir, offers a colorful account of his life in the Broadway theater.

People in show business always seem to have the best stories. Maybe it’s the strength of their personalities or the heightened cultural setting or the chance that someone famous might pop up at any time. All these things are true in Black’s memoir, which gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the Great White Way (with requisite appearances by celebrities big and small), as well as an examination of the complicated life of a theater professional. Black details his childhood as the son of an influential atheistic minister, his marriage into the upper crust of Boston society, his time as an opera singer in Europe, and his long career in the fast and fickle world of Broadway. The most interesting sections detail his work in the 1960s, producing shows such as the musical George M!, a revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and most surprisingly, Richard Nixon’s 1969 Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C. Just as engaging, though, are his relationships with his family and his lovers, and his personal trials define him even more than the professional ones. At just over 150 pages, it’s a short volume, as Black is no completist when it comes to his own memory; he provides only the moments he wishes to discuss. He writes in a highly anecdotal style, one story following the next, yet the memoir somehow manages to avoid feeling digressive or directionless. Instead, his life unfolds in brief but meticulous fables that, together, present a quirky but comprehensive biography. Some stories are poignant, but most are simply funny, and Black’s wonderfully dry humor and inclination toward self-deprecation truly carry readers through the book. Overall, he seems to have enough respect for life and art to know not to take either too seriously. In theater, there are tragedies and there are comedies; Black has thankfully interpreted his life as the latter.

A quick, humorous memoir about storytelling, on and off the stage.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1631923258

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Mezzo Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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