A remarkably insightful and entertaining collection from a talented voice.

I'VE BEEN WRONG BEFORE

ESSAYS

Wry, contemplative personal essays reflecting on travel, intimate connections, and the pursuit of a writing life.

In this debut collection, James (Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe, 2019) memorably revisits experiences from his past, whether random encounters or more significant life-changing events. In each case, he reveals impressive candor and depth of thought about his formative years and his development as a writer. The journey wasn’t always smooth, and the author is forthcoming about some of the many jobs he has had over the years, including answering phones at the San Francisco Ballet during Nutcracker season, a brief summer interlude at a gelato stand in Seattle, and an extended writing sabbatical (“writing aside, the primary gift of a residency is ample time half-free from the expectations of the world”) and stint at the Carson McCullers house in Columbus, Georgia. Frequent travel to both familiar and remote locations throughout the world allowed James to chronicle complicated and occasionally awkward interactions with foreign cultures. Throughout, he reflects on the nuanced challenges of personal interaction in any form, from bonding with job associates to investing in more enduring friendships, or from navigating the challenges of finding enduring love to casual hookups with strangers. “The pursuit of sex, which at times feels like it’s all masks, all theater, can demand so little real exposure,” writes James. “What petrified me was that I wanted more than sex from Karim: I longed to fall fully in love with him, which is much more frightening—love demands that you rest in place offstage, endure heroic passages of time together, time in which one must confront, continually, the tired, the ridiculous, the warty actor behind the role.” Cutting gay cultural clichés, the author skillfully reveals his complex inner life. Attuned to the broad expectations or struggles of being a contemporary gay male, he is also deft in his exploration of the personal and financial difficulties of anyone living in our current era.

A remarkably insightful and entertaining collection from a talented voice.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9964-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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