ONE WRITER'S BEGINNINGS

Delivered as three talks (April 1983) in Harvard's William E. Massey Sr. Lecture series: a Welty childhood memoir, emphasizing the memories and habits that later helped young Eudora become a writer. The first section centers on listening, on reading and secrets and curiosity—as Welty recalls the voracious reading, the expressive reading-aloud of her mother: "She read Dickens in the spirit in which she would have eloped with him. . . . When she was reading 'Puss in Boots'. . . it was impossible not to know that she distrusted all cats." (So, when Welty writes her stories, she hears every line in an inward voice, a voice that "I have always trusted. . . .") She also remembers the secret pleasures of curiosity and suspense, the cornerstones of the Bible and Jackson's Carnegie Library—where Mrs. Welty said to the forbidding librarian: "Eudora is nine years old and has my permission to read any book she wants from the shelves, children or adult. . . . With the exception of Elsie Dinsmore." Then, in a section called "Learning to See," Welty tells of summer trips to grandparents in West Virginia and Ohio—feeling independence take possession of her on an ancestral mountain-top, feeling the trips themselves as stories ("not only in form, but in their taking on direction, movement, development, change"). And the third section, "Finding a Voice," takes Welty into the outside world: discovering S. J. Perelman at college; writing and taking photos as a WPA publicity agent ("I learned in the doing how ready I had to be. . . . Life doesn't hold still"); encountering mortality; and finding her kind of fiction, her voice, especially in the making of Miss Eckart ("out of my most inward and most deeply feeling self") in "June Recital." Less shapely or focused than Welty's stories, and a little too wispy in its self-portrait—but a welcome, often-eloquent arrival nonetheless, for Welty readers and writing-students in about equal measure.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0674639278

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1983

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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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