WALL STREET TO MAIN STREET

CHARLES MERRILL AND MIDDLE-CLASS INVESTORS

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith is the world’s most successful brokerage firm. Perkins (History/Univ. of Calif., Los Angeles) tells of its founder and how, with his eponymous partners, he brought the blessings of investing to the masses. Perkins focuses on Charlie Merrill as businessman, foregoing deep character delineation. In a stab at financial hagiography, comparison is made to larger-than-life folk like J.P. Morgan. Undeniably, Charlie (as he is called to this day) wielded an important influence on Wall Street and how the Street did business, but contrary to the author’s manifest intent, this first published biography somehow makes him seem less a visionary than a comic strip bigwig. The narrative of Charlie, an everyday southern gent who rose to great power and wealth, never ignites. From his college days, through his days as the boss of both the Safeway grocery chain and his own Wall Street business, to his semi-retirement and ultimate demise, Charlie seems, frankly, like a tedious fellow—one with penchants for bridge, obedience to his commands, and, not least, trophy wives. (For a more passionate view, one might consult the works of his son, poet James Merrill). The founder’s personal story is lightly integrated with the ascendance of Merrill Lynch. Promoting first-rate public relations, new marketing techniques as well as intensive brokers’ training, Merrill Lynch did, indeed, democratize investing and became a great enterprise with branches as ubiquitous as Starbucks. But one still awaits the definitive study of MLPF&S as a business phenomenon. Meanwhile, the present text, if not animated, is clear and generally accurate (despite Perkins’s grating habit of calling the back office, where bookkeeping is done, by the more theatrical but mistaken term, “backstage”). A decent, not definitive attempt to depict, at once, the history of a business and its founder, sounding more like a curriculum vitae than a full-blown biography of Merrill and his company.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-521-63029-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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