REBEL

THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF JAMES DEAN

Do we really need yet another James Dean biography? Spoto (Decline and Fall of the House of Windsor, 1995) thinks so. James Dean had starring roles in only three motion pictures, East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, but he has been the subject of more full-length biographies than the directors of those films—Elia Kazan, Nicholas Ray, and George Stevens—combined. This latest addition to the Dean canon comes from a biographer known best for airing the dirty laundry of such artists as Alfred Hitchcock, Lotte Lenya, and Laurence Olivier. Ironically, the basic thrust of Rebel is to denounce Spoto's predecessors for vastly inflating the alleged sexual escapades of his protagonist. Quite rightly, too. As Spoto points out, there is virtually no convincing evidence for the portrait of Dean as gay hustler or sadomasochist that has been painted in previous books. The basic trajectory of his life is familiar: Dean's trauma over the death of his doting mother when he was nine, his lifelong search for a replacement for the love thus lost, his meteoric rise as an actor and his sudden death. Anything but a Dean-worshipper, Spoto brings a different spin to this material; his Dean is a terribly immature and selfish young man, alternately arrogant and shy, ill-mannered and sweet. Spoto has spoken to several Dean acquaintances (most of whom had not been interviewed much before) and draws heavily on newspaper and magazine accounts from the period, as well as on the memoirs of other actors and directors. The result is perhaps the most detailed biography of Dean to date but, at 400 pages, a bit of a bore for all but the most hardcore fans. Spoto's analysis of Deanolatry in his opening and closing chapters is simultaneously on-the-money and rather cruel, as is his portrait of the troubled, talented, but callow young man on whom that worship has been posthumously lavished. ($125,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-017656-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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