For Phoenix fans who want to relive that night and mourn what might have been.

LAST NIGHT AT THE VIPER ROOM

RIVER PHOENIX AND THE HOLLYWOOD HE LEFT BEHIND

Twenty years later, the overdose death of a promising young actor doesn’t seem to be quite enough to fill a book, even one as well-written as this one.

River Phoenix (1970–1993) was only 23 when he died, and though he’d shown a precocious talent as a child actor and singer, he’d only made two movies of note (Stand by Me and My Private Idaho) before an addict’s carelessness let him swallow something he shouldn’t have. A veteran pop-culture writer for magazines, Edwards (’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy and Other Misheard Lyrics, 1995) has the makings of a solid article in this commemoration of the actor’s death, life and career, but the context he provides feels like padding: the career progressions of other actors of the same generation, production details of films best forgotten, speculation on what he might have achieved if he hadn’t died, and the history of the Viper Room and its owner, Johnny Depp, whose connection with Phoenix otherwise seems tenuous at best. The book is more researched than reported, relying on other books and magazines as well as a few interviews with those who were mainly on the periphery of the actor’s life. The early material about his parents, hippies who succumbed to a sexually promiscuous religious sect, makes for fascinating reading, but his descent into drugs is familiar and sad, a decline further undermined by denial. In the tick-tock narrative of his final hours, his brother Joaquin responded, after others were alarmed by the sidewalk seizures and suggested he call 911, “He’s fine, he’s fine.” Depp apparently didn’t recognize the figure causing the commotion outside his club. But the strict vegan with the warm heart, strong work ethic and increasingly debilitating drug excess needed help long before that.

For Phoenix fans who want to relive that night and mourn what might have been.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-227315-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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