LETTERS ON LITERATURE AND POLITICS, 1912-1972

Was he, finally, too various? "I am inundated," Wilson wrote in the Sixties, "with books and papers on psychoanalysis, the Bible, the Dead Sea scrolls, socialism, the American Indians, the Civil War, Canada, Jewish history, the Symbolist movement in literature, the Soviet Union, and Hungary." To which one might add correspondence: he is now the squire of Talcottville, in upstate New York (another fevered interest, cf. Upstate), eminent and honored and even solvent; but he is still taking issue, as he has for thirty-plus years, with "Dos" Passes' politics, sending his love and opinions on poetry to re-hospitalized Louise Began, "discovering" new writers (1934, Nathanael West; 1968, Wilfrid Sheed), and welcoming fresh intelligence on any one of his subjects. The lifeline from prep school and Princeton to the literary-binge Twenties (New Republic reviews, Axel's Castle), the radical, anti-Stalinist Thirties (end result: To the Finland Station), the far-reaching Forties (Europe Without Baedeker; Zuni, N.M.; Haiti), the reprint Fifties ("I feel a little, for the first time . . . as if I were a real success"), is traced in these letters, an assemblage as tight and mutually supportive as a dry stone wall. College friends Scott Fitzgerald and John Peale Bishop marry and publish, take their raps (to "Fitz" 1919: "tighten up your artistic conscience and pay a little more attention to form"), meet success, compromise or stray, fall off, and die. "Men who start out writing together write for one another more than they realize until someone dies," he writes Bishop on the death of Fitzgerald. Wilson himself branches and re-roots. Consuming Civil War literature (Patriotic Gore-to-be) takes him to the Old Testament tradition in America, the study of Hebrew, and the implicative Dead Sea scrolls: new correspondents are Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and scholarly New Jersey tavernkeeper Jacob Landau (who, disarmingly, sends good whisky as well as Hebrew translations). One minority leads to another—the Iroquois (Apologies to . . . ), French Canadians (O Canada)—and to a watch over minority rights. What's happening in the Scottish Outer Isles "that you dramatize in Rockets Galore", he asks Compton Mackenzie (first met, in 1919, as one of Fitzgerald's "bad masters"). The letter concludes with regret that Mackenzie's work, recently re-examined, isn't better received in Britain: "I realize that I'll have to write something myself." Let his curiosity, range, and responsiveness be contagious.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1977

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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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