Faithful attempt. Still, it could be that you had to be there.

LITTLE CHAPEL ON THE RIVER

A PUB, A TOWN AND THE SEARCH FOR WHAT MATTERS MOST

Forced to relocate from downtown Manhattan after 9/11, a career woman discovers warmth, camaraderie and more in a small-town barroom.

Here’s one for you: there’s this tavern run by, of all things, an Irishman. But for Wall Street Journal columnist Bounds (“call me Wendy”), a displaced renter in Garrison, N.Y., after the Twin Towers fell too close to her apartment building, one of the most entrenched clichés in America’s alcohol culture becomes a place of refuge and reflection. As the author plumbs the boozy ambience of Guinan’s, hard by the Hudson River across from West Point, the aging diabetic owner Jim Guinan and his daughter Margaret, a somewhat hard-bitten detective on the local force who essentially runs the place in her off-hours, lead a cast of characters—their customers—who tend to become poets and philosophers instantly upon entry. The good and bad news here is that everyone who has frequented a similar venue to the extent that it becomes known as one’s watering-hole has met and enjoyed—or sometimes been appalled by—people like these. The lawyer, the salesman, the silent war hero, the guy down on his luck, the guy with the bad jokes: all are in residence as components in the slice-of-life Bounds offers with the implication that the reader should look beyond stereotypes, as does she. But it’s not until some 60 pages have gone by in this encounter between the willowy blonde in her early 30s and the predominantly older males who belly up at Guinan’s, that the reader is let in on the fact that she’s in a gay relationship. Later, when she realizes she must, in a lip-biting encounter, explain to Jim that “Kathryn is not my sister,” it provides one of the memoir’s few originally engaging scenes.

Faithful attempt. Still, it could be that you had to be there.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-056406-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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