GETTING TO KNOW THE GENERAL

THE STORY OF AN INVOLVEMENT

The general is Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama from 1968, when he took over in a coup, until his death in a plane crash in 1981. Enmeshed in the difficult negotiations with the US that finally resulted in the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty, Torrijos summoned Greene to Panama in 1976 so that the British novelist could get to know the country and its leader, and help put across the Panamanian viewpoint to others. Greene, long a sympathizer of left-wing causes, set out in part to realize his own, buccaneer fantasies of Central America—but came, as he says, to love Torrijos as a friend. He made other friends, the foremost being his guide, bodyguard, and companion, a former Marxist professor of mathematics who went by the name of Chuchu; and it looks for a while as if this will be more a book about Chuchu's sexual exploits, about rum punches and bad meals, than about General Torrijos. (A subtheme is Greene's European habit of drinking all the time, versus the Panamanian habit of drinking on Sunday; Greene seems to convert just about everyone to the European mode.) But what emerges, subtly, is a portrait of Torrijos as much drawn from the mirror of his Panama as from Greene's encounters and travels with him. Torrijos dreamed of an independent, social democratic Central America; his Panama was home to political refugees from Chile and Argentina, and to guerrillas from E1 Salvador and Nicaragua (Chuchu is constantly engaged in small-scale gun running and semi-clandestine meetings). Greene became friendly with many of these people and they take on a very human form here. (In travels on behalf of Torrijos, Greene met Nicaraguan Sandinista leaders Daniel Ortega and Thomas Borge, and E1 Salvadoran Communist leader Salvador Cayetano, who later committed suicide. He also met, in Panama, Eden Pastora, the former and now anti-Sandinista commander, whom Greene calls a tragic figure and considers a sell-out to his celebrity status.) Greene revels in the constantly shifting travel plans, in Torrijos' way with a crowd, in the antiseptic lawns and golf courses of the Canal Zone. He went back to Panama each year, thereafter; in 1977, along with fellow-novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he was a member of the Panamanian delegation to the signing of the treaty. (There, Greene depicts Chilean dictator Pinochet as dominating the room like Boris Karloff—and making it all the more difficult for Americans to distinguish one Latin general from another.) His appreciation of Torrijos, who chose the difficult path of patience over the easier one of romantic violence, is heartfelt and touching without being either soppy or mythmaking. Greene's skill at presenting people he likes, foibles and all, is put to good use here. An engaging combination of memoir, travel writing, and social and political analysis from a man who doesn't worry about being used.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1984

ISBN: 0370308085

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1984

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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