Detailed, mildly salacious, not especially moving or surprising.

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JACK

THE GREAT SEDUCER: THE LIFE AND MANY LOVES OF JACK NICHOLSON

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style portrait of the noted actor and unstoppable womanizer.

The pseudonymous Douglas (author, we are told, of previous biographies) admires baby-boomer icon Nicholson, theorizing that his most notable roles—in Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Carnal Knowledge, About Schmidt—anticipated seismic shifts in the American psyche. This early sentence gives a fair idea of the project’s tone: “Loving Jack Nicholson [was] a maze with no way out, like the treacherous hedge that defeated Jack Torrance in The Shining.” The author’s major psychological insight concerns the not exactly breaking news that Nicholson, conceived by an unmarried woman, grew up believing his grandmother to be his mother and his mother his sister; he learned the devastating truth well after he became a star. The actor spent years honing his craft in B pictures, then incarnated the new, countercultural Hollywood in his riveting early-1970s performances. Douglas’s hectic prose swerves to link Nicholson’s antics to larger trends in drugs, fashion, and restaurant culture with mixed success. Fellow rogues like Robert Evans, Dennis Hopper, and Nick Nolte drift through the narrative, while Nicholson’s own musings demonstrate him to be witty, intelligent, but ultimately arrogant, embodying Tinseltown’s complicated solipsism as well as any living actor. (On his outsized fees: “The minute someone signs a deal with me they’ve made money, so what does it matter?”) The author offers recollections and caustic commentary from many of Nicholson’s old flames, detailing his “wild” seduction tactics and inner isolation, but the mirth is dampened by his refusal to utilize condoms. In the 1990s, notable for bitter litigation with the mother of his oldest child and incidents of road rage, Nicholson’s life seemed flaccid and ugly, although he still provided reliable box office and the occasional strong performance in, for example, As Good As It Gets. Rich in scandal-sheet anecdotes—bed-hopping, copious drug use, and real-estate coups abound—but oddly hagiographic overall, this is a flat, uninflected read.

Detailed, mildly salacious, not especially moving or surprising.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-052047-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperEntertainment

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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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

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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