An eloquent and erudite rereading of the author’s beloved works.




Literature serves as consolation for an eminent and prolific critic.

Legendary critic and professor Bloom (Humanities/Yale Univ.; Lear: The Great Image of Authority, 2018, etc.) has created a literary biography from brief essays on the poems, plays, and prose—many committed to memory—that he has reread, with growing insight, throughout his life. He calls this book “a reverie” that meditates on what it means to be possessed by the memory of “dead or lost friends and lovers” and by works of literature. “When you have a poem by heart,” he writes, “you possess it more truly and more strangely than you do your own dwelling place, because the poem possesses you.” Now 88, Bloom suffers the debilities of aging: “a tremor in my fingers, my legs tend to hint at giving out, my teeth diminish, incipient macular degeneration dims my eyes, deafness increases,” and, even using a walker, he is constantly afraid of falling. He has been hospitalized several times, and he mourns the deaths of many friends, who include colleagues, fellow critics, and poets (John Ashbery and A.R. Ammons, for example) whose works he admires. For spiritual sustenance, religion fails him. “I am a Jew who evades normative Judaism,” he writes. “My religion is the appreciation of high literature. Shakespeare is the summit.” In one of the book’s four sections, Bloom insightfully examines in Shakespearean characters the strange act of “self-otherseeing,” by which he means “the double consciousness of seeing our own actions and sufferings as though they belonged to others.” Other sections focus on biblical verse, American poets, and, in the longest section, elegies. “I seem now to be always in the elegy season,” he writes. Among these poems of praise are lyrics by Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats, and Tennyson, whose “Morte d’Arthur” provided comfort to Bloom as he was recovering from two serious operations. Although the author has written about these works throughout his career, these essays reveal a deeply personal attachment and fresh perspective.

An eloquent and erudite rereading of the author’s beloved works.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-52088-7

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 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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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.


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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