Photos of Gibbons’ magnificent works enhance this romantic, lyrical prose portrait of “making and seeing…entwined together.”

THE LOST CARVING

A JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF MAKING

Woodcarver Esterly (Grinling Gibbons and the Art of Carving, 1999) chronicles the year he spent at Hampton Court replacing a 17th-century masterpiece destroyed by fire.

The fire was in 1986, and the author arrived three years later. From the detailed diary he kept at the time, he has crafted a gripping account of the political maneuverings involved in a major restoration project and an intimate meditation on the nature and meaning of carving. In 1974, when Esterly first saw a limewood carving by English master Grinling Gibbons, he was at loose ends and tired of a life oscillating between ultraintellectual pursuits and exhausting manual labor. Gazing on Gibbons’ intricately wrought rendering of flowers and foliage, he writes, “somehow I was taking in the thing with mind and body at once.” It was the promise of a unified existence that led him to take up chisels to emulate Gibbons’ craft, and it was the expertise he’d acquired by 1989 that led to his commission to create a replacement for the Gibbons overdoor drop reduced to ashes, even though a faction within the Historic Royal Palaces agency argued that a British carver should be hired. Esterly would have more run-ins with turf-guarding bureaucrats who disdained his idea of a Gibbons exhibition (it took him eight years to get one at the Victoria and Albert Museum) and ignored his pleas to leave all the restored wood in the light, unvarnished state the artist had intended. These scuffles give the book its narrative drive. Its heart lies in Esterly’s moving ruminations about the spiritual value inherent in fine craftsmanship and technique; trendy conceptual artist Jeff Koons gets some hard knocks for being blind to both.

Photos of Gibbons’ magnificent works enhance this romantic, lyrical prose portrait of “making and seeing…entwined together.”

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0670023806

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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