A warm and well-researched—though not particularly compelling—appreciation of one of the stage’s most beloved performers...

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SOME ENCHANTED EVENINGS

THE GLITTERING LIFE AND TIMES OF MARY MARTIN

The charmed life and times of Broadway sweetheart Mary Martin (1913-1990).

Longtime theater critic Kaufman’s (Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, 2008, etc.) biography of stage star Martin will tick all the boxes for ardent fans of the performer—the author deftly summarizes her career and personal history—but those not part of the cult will find a curiously bland subject. Martin’s gift was an endearing quality, a unique ability to emotionally connect to audiences in a live setting; while a more than able vocalist, she lacked a truly distinctive vocal instrument, and her early-career onscreen forays (her attempts at movie stardom would come to naught) proved lackluster and unmemorable. Martin shone on the Broadway stage, where she capitalized on her winsome charm in storied productions of South PacificThe Sound of Music, and, most famously, Peter Pan. Martin’s work in these roles inspired adoration, but there is precious little to dig into: the shows were masterpieces, she was excellent in them, and that’s about it. Perhaps attempting to invest dramatic stakes in the tale, Kaufman alludes to rumors of lesbian relationships between Martin and actresses Jean Arthur and Janet Gaynor, but gently and without much evidence to support the claims. The author evenhandedly recounts Martin’s longtime marriage to the gay, dictatorial Richard Halliday, a difficult personality who clashed terribly with Martin’s son, the free-spirited actor Larry Hagman (the product of a previous marriage), but even here the narrative lacks any real tension or drive. Kaufman has produced an encomium rather than a page-turner.

A warm and well-researched—though not particularly compelling—appreciation of one of the stage’s most beloved performers and, on the evidence here, least interesting legends.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-03175-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

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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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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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