Solid work in desperate need of the careful attention of a competent copy editor.

VINCENTE MINNELLI

HOLLYWOOD’S DARK DREAMER

Well-informed biography of the flamboyant director, utterly lacking the stylishness that made his films so memorable.

The son of touring players, Vincente Minnelli (1903–86) had only the briefest experience of the kind of small-town, Midwestern life he would later enshrine in such popular MGM fare as Meet Me in St. Louis and Father of the Bride. Film scholar Levy (All About Oscar, 2003, etc.) does a commendable job with Minnelli’s early professional years in Chicago and New York, where he dressed department-store windows and designed sets and costumes for movie theaters’ stage shows; he would remain deeply, some said overly, concerned with visual effects in all of his films. Levy also evinces a solid understanding of the essentially somber worldview that made Minnelli as successful with melodramas like The Bad and the Beautiful as with such brilliant musicals as An American in Paris and Gigi. He was the quintessential studio director, capable in most genres and able to produce highly personal work within the assembly-line system’s confines. Indeed, first wife Judy Garland complained that he didn’t support her in the battles with MGM that led to her spectacular flameout and the couple’s divorce. The bisexual Minnelli’s stormy union with Garland is the only one of his four marriages that receives much attention here, and only a single male partner is mentioned by name. Aside from a rather catty portrait of his close bond with daughter Liza, the director’s personal life is scanted in favor of his career, which makes sense since he lived for his work. Levy’s judgments about the films are sound; it’s a pity they’re conveyed in dreadful, occasionally incomprehensible prose. This sentence about Father of the Bride is regrettably typical: “Stanley confronts his worst fear of humiliation, here reflected actually a nightmare rather than imagining or dreaming about at.” Such painfully inept presentation undercuts the author’s strong case that Minnelli is the most underrated of Hollywood’s Golden Age craftsmen.

Solid work in desperate need of the careful attention of a competent copy editor.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-32925-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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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