An apt rendering of the life of a charismatic man whose smile Coleridge compared to “the opening of the gate of Heaven.”

BYRON IN LOVE

A SHORT DARING LIFE

A concise, humorous analysis of Lord Byron as archetypal lover and “embodiment of Everyman.”

Novelist O’Brien (The Light of Evening, 2006, etc.) revels in describing the excesses of the poet’s larger-than-life personality. The precocious George Gordon Byron (1788–1824) was translating Horace at the age of six, read the entire Old Testament before he was eight and went on to attend Harrow and Cambridge. From an early age he assumed a hedonistic, profligate approach to life that unceasingly attracted both men and women. His early loves included the Earl of Clare at Harrow (“a love interrupted only by distance…he could never hear the word ‘Clare’ without a murmur of the heart”), Mary Chaworth back home during vacations and the “chiselled and beautiful” choirboy at Cambridge, John Edleston, in whose memory Byron wrote “Thryza,” a series of elegies that disguised the subject’s gender. O’Brien contends that Byron’s continual need to be in love is what propelled his creative genius, allowing him to create the bawdy yet erudite poems “Don Juan” and “Childe Harold,” which he composed while traveling through Greece and Turkey. Remarkable amorous conquests followed Byron’s success—a swooning, hysterical Caroline Lamb, who stalked Byron once he broke off their relationship; Lady Frances, who Byron seduced in full view of her husband; and his half sister Augusta Leigh, with whom he could not desist from an incestuous love, and which led to his shaming and exile from England. All are described in delicious detail by O’Brien. The key architect of Byron’s public infamy was Annabella Milbanke, the fastidious heiress who married Byron to find herself in a love triangle with Augusta. Once separated, she made it her life’s mission to destroy his name. Byron sought respite in Italy, finding more lovers, including Countess Teresa Guiccioli, his muse for “Don Juan.” He died at the age of 36, amid a “deathbed scene that many an artist would have painted…but only Rembrandt would have caught the fear and bewilderment in the eyes of those onlookers, all of whom venerated Byron but in their zeal and their helplessness differed as to what could or should be done.”

An apt rendering of the life of a charismatic man whose smile Coleridge compared to “the opening of the gate of Heaven.”

Pub Date: June 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-07011-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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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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