Although Friedman fashions a lively narrative, this book does not significantly embellish the already well-known image of...

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WILDE IN AMERICA

OSCAR WILDE AND THE INVENTION OF MODERN CELEBRITY

An account of the notorious author’s American tour.

In 1882, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) set out for a yearlong American lecture tour, backed by Richard D’Oyly Carte, whose production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta Patience had just opened in the United States. Because its central character parodied an aesthete—a social type unfamiliar to Americans—Carte surmised that putting the young man on display would pique interest and increase ticket sales. As Friedman (The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever, 2007, etc.) shows, Wilde was eager to comply. The 27-year-old, author of a single volume of poems that had garnered tepid reviews, lusted after fame. In London, he insinuated himself into circles of the rich and famous, convinced that stardust rubs off. An exhibitionist, he believed that “life is a performance,” and he enacted “an opera of opportunism” everywhere he went. Following Wilde through his American travels, Friedman focuses each chapter on one of Wilde’s revelations about how to become a celebrity: “Take Your Show on the Road,” “Build Your Brand,” “Work the Room,” “Strike a Pose,” “Celebrity is Contagious,” “The Subject is Always You,” “Promote is Just Another Word for Provoke,” “Keep Yourself Amused” and “Go Where You’re Wanted (and Even Where You’re Not)”—i.e., “bad publicity is still publicity.” These ideas overlap, as do the chapters themselves, which detail Wilde’s foppish sartorial choices, from shoulder-length hair to patent-leather shoes, and describe a multitude of receptions, train trips, and delivery of each lecture on beauty, home decoration or the English Renaissance. In some cities, fashionable people filled the halls, but Wilde faced half-empty rooms in places where his reputation for being “the sovereign of insufferables” preceded him. Several amusing anecdotes stand out, such as Wilde’s first meeting with Walt Whitman, himself “a self-taught genius at self-promotion.”

Although Friedman fashions a lively narrative, this book does not significantly embellish the already well-known image of the outrageous, self-aggrandizing Wilde.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-06317-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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