Engrossing, impressively researched, and keenly perceptive.

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GROPIUS

THE MAN WHO BUILT THE BAUHAUS

A fresh biography of the influential modernist architect who shaped aesthetics from the 1920s to our own time.

Award-winning biographer and design and architecture critic MacCarthy (The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination, 2011, etc.) brings insight and sensitivity to a sweeping, penetrating life of Walter Gropius (1883-1969), founder of the Bauhaus, an experimental community of architects, sculptors, painters, and craftsmen. Established in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus, in its early years, was devoted to craft, owing “so very much,” Gropius admitted, to William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement. Soon, influenced by Constructivist László Moholy-Nagy, who joined the community as a teacher, Gropius changed the emphasis “from the handmade and romantic to the clean-cut and mechanistic,” leading to a “smooth-lined, restrained, subtly geometric” design that became emblematic of Bauhaus style in architecture, furniture, and art. The school attracted brilliant artists as teachers, including Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, and Marcel Breuer. But there was often conflict among them and, after the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, between the community and “less enlightened members” of the public. Money was a perennial problem, as well; in 1928, Gropius resigned and moved to Berlin, where he aligned himself with a radical group of architects who hoped to go beyond “the design of individual buildings into the economic planning of whole cities.” By 1932, however, architectural innovations faced Nazi artistic censorship, and Gropius was vilified. MacCarthy follows Gropius’ career in Britain and the U.S. after he left Germany in 1935 and, a few years later, became chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where his students included such eminent architects as I.M. Pei and Philip Johnson. Besides following Gropius’ professional life, the author vibrantly portrays his love affairs, marriages (notably to the turbulent Alma Mahler), the death of his beloved daughter, and his close, sometimes-strained friendships. Altogether, she produces a multidimensional portrait of a towering, complex figure whose ideas, one historian remarked, “reshaped the world.”

Engrossing, impressively researched, and keenly perceptive.

Pub Date: April 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-674-73785-3

Page Count: 540

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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