IN JOY STILL FELT

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ISAAC ASIMOV, 1954-1978

The second volume of Asimov's blockbuster autobiography (begun with In Memory Yet Green, 1979) picks him up at age 34, teaching biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine and under fire as a sci-fi sensation, and leaves him, at 58, the Compleat Science Writer, dubbed by George Gaylord Simpson "a natural wonder and a natural resource." That accolade particularly pleased Asimov because it signaled recognition for a work in pure Asimovian style—the 1960 Wellsprings of Life—by the scientific community; in contrast, the also-lauded Intelligent Man's Guide to Science was and is abjured by Asimov because of heavy-handed cutting and rewriting by an editor. And that is not the only time we learn that Asimov will brook no blue-penciling, for the chapters here, with their brief numbered parts, are primarily accounts of what author Asimov was currently up to: who are the writers, editors, and publishers he's seeing; what rankles and what pleases, what brings fame or blame; and, not least, what he's earning (until the early 1960s, when he tops $70 thousand a year and draws the curtain). To be sure, wife Gertrude and the children swell a scene or two, and there are wry tales of suburban life and Jewish fatherhood. But writing is what the book is about, and to that extent it is more interesting and less self-indulgent than its predecessor. In a telling anecdote, Asimov acknowledges the insight of daughter Robyn who in little-girl fashion once asked what he would do if he had to choose between her and writing (and did not fail to note the slight hesitation in his voice, as he gave the inevitable reply). There are some interesting glimpses into how Asimov works—by plumbing the literature, we are told, never by interviews (a "waste of time"). And we learn of his compulsive need for concurrent projects: "There must be no endings. Several balls must always be in the air." In time marriage #1 dissolves, not without sadness and guilt, and marriage to Janet, the psychiatrist and intellectual soul-mate of many years, eventually takes place. In 1957, Asimov, overweight and overcommitted, suffers a coronary, which is described with typical objectivity and earns the reader's compassion. Asimov, ever admirable if exasperating, ends the book on the rebound, pounds lighter, and enthusiastic over projects to come—including (you guessed it) a fulfillment of the book's last line: "To be continued."

Pub Date: April 25, 1980

ISBN: 0385155441

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980

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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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