A deeply researched and thoroughly engrossing biography that confirms Crosby’s essential role in the history of American...

BING CROSBY

SWINGING ON A STAR: THE WAR YEARS, 1940-1946

The second volume of a multipart biography of Bing Crosby (1903-1977), concentrating on his remarkable achievements during the war years.

In a long career, the years 1940-1946 represent the most lucrative period for Crosby as a pre-eminent multimedia talent. Having already established fame as a top-selling recording artist, his work on film would reach unprecedented box office success and critical heights. At the same time, he continued as a leading radio star on the popular Kraft Music Hall. Noted jazz critic Giddins (Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker, 2013, etc.), a winner of a Peabody and National Book Critics Circle Award, among others, focuses much of the narrative on Crosby’s notable career accomplishments, recounting a tireless work and travel schedule to rival any artist. In addition to chronicling Crosby’s generous efforts on behalf of the enlisted men during the war that included several USO tours, the author provides extensive details on the production of each of Crosby’s films, radio broadcasts, and recording sessions, including his contributions as a businessman and entrepreneur in the further expansion of these industries. The author doesn’t shy away from his subject’s personal limitations and his often remote behavior within his family, exploring his long and often troubled first marriage to former actress and nightclub singer, Dixie Lee. Giddins also examines Crosby’s harsh disciplinary approach to raising his four sons from his marriage to Lee. Later to be recounted in Going My Own Way, son Gary’s memoir, this aspect of the artist’s life would somewhat tarnish his reputation among contemporary audiences. Throughout the book, the author impressively maintains a balanced view of Crosby’s complex character: an affable, hardworking performer admired by his peers and audience but also a man with values and ideas representative of his generation and piously Catholic upbringing. Ultimately, the author establishes Crosby’s relevancy as an indisputable talent worth fair consideration from future generations.

A deeply researched and thoroughly engrossing biography that confirms Crosby’s essential role in the history of American music and film during a crucial period of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-88792-2

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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