Unsurprising but perfectly competent and seamlessly of a piece with her Living History (2003). And will Hillary run? The...

HARD CHOICES

Former Secretary of State Clinton tells—well, if not all, at least what she and her “book team” think we ought to know.

If this memoir of diplomatic service lacks the preening self-regard of Henry Kissinger’s and the technocratic certainty of Dean Acheson’s, it has all the requisite evenhandedness: Readers have the sense that there’s not a sentence in it that hasn’t been vetted, measured and adjusted for maximal blandness. The news that has thus far made the rounds has concerned the author’s revelation that the Clintons were cash-strapped on leaving the White House, probably since there’s not enough hanging rope about Benghazi for anyone to get worked up about. (On that current hot-button topic, the index says, mildly, “See Libya.”) The requisite encomia are there, of course: “Losing these fearless public servants in the line of duty was a crushing blow.” So are the crises and Clinton’s careful qualifying: Her memories of the Benghazi affair, she writes, are a blend of her own experience and information gathered in the course of the investigations that followed, “especially the work of the independent review board charged with determining the facts and pulling no punches.” When controversy appears, it is similarly cushioned: Tinhorn dictators are valuable allies, and everyone along the way is described with the usual honorifics and flattering descriptions: “Benazir [Bhutto] wore a shalwar kameez, the national dress of Pakistan, a long, flowing tunic over loose pants that was both practical and attractive, and she covered her hair with lovely scarves.” In short, this is a standard-issue political memoir, with its nods to “adorable students,” “important partners,” the “rich history and culture” of every nation on the planet, and the difficulty of eating and exercising sensibly while logging thousands of hours in flight and in conference rooms.

Unsurprising but perfectly competent and seamlessly of a piece with her Living History (2003). And will Hillary run? The guiding metaphor of the book is the relay race, and there’s a sense that if the torch is handed to her, well….

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5144-3

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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