A sharp-eyed collection of bits and pieces that will appeal, at least in part, to readers on both hot and cold sides of the...



The provocative essayist contemplates the precarious mechanics of human intimacy.

In this bold mixture of stark honesty and humor, Shields (Other People: Takes & Mistakes, 2017, etc.) ponders how sex, love, attraction, and power all coalesce to both fortify and complicate the human mating experience. Snippets and subdivisions of thought, critiques, and inspired scenarios abound as the author’s entertaining musings range from confessional—he unmasks facets of his own marriage and imagines a love letter to his wife or a novel about their exchange of sexual fantasies—to examinations of oddities and taboo aspects of sexuality. The author explores intimate relationships through personal examples and experiences as well as copious references and allusions (presented in a collage style similar to that of the author’s Reality Hunger) drawn from a spectrum of well-respected writers, poets, journalists, and medical professionals; most reinforce Shields’ ideas and assessments and add zesty commentary to an already fiery topic. The book is separated into five sections, each one progressively more explicit. An introductory chapter of bite-sized observations on human togetherness as seen through the lens of popular culture heralds further introspections on the author’s own emotional landscape. Personal anecdotes on his awkward adolescence and family life and scenes of both romantic love and explicit sex interweave with outtakes from an ensemble of opinionated voices—e.g., utterances from a pre-presidential Donald Trump and a piece by sexologist Pepper Schwartz that psychoanalyzes Bernie Madoff’s behavior. In the opening pages of a graphically descriptive chapter on sexual fantasy and pornography (“the world’s one true religion”), Shields asks, “is sex really that awful?” The answer, found in a dizzying array of explicit and racy perspectives, will depend on the reader's reactions to the author’s revealing adventures, each buttressed by a supporting chorus of sex-positive cheerleaders and damning naysayers. Entertaining and contemplative, Shields offers focused philosophy and effervescent wisdom on some of society’s knottiest topics.

A sharp-eyed collection of bits and pieces that will appeal, at least in part, to readers on both hot and cold sides of the intimacy spectrum.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5519-3

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Mad Creek/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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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 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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