A worthy treatment of an interesting subject, which, one hopes, will inspire renewed interest in Guthrie’s body of work.

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UNDER THE BIG SKY

A BIOGRAPHY OF A.B. GUTHRIE JR.

A welcome biography of the Western novelist and environmentalist.

Born in Indiana in 1901 and raised in Choteau, Mont.—which Benson (The Ox-Bow Man: A Biography of Walter Van Tilburg Clark, 2004, etc.) rightly calls “the center of his writing universe”—Alfred Bertram “Bud” Guthrie Jr. grew up in a bookish household and got ink in his blood the old-fashioned way, by hand-setting type and feeding a linotype machine. In 1926, he moved to Kentucky to work for a newspaper, eventually covering politics and, as Benson wryly notes, acquiring two requisites of an old-timey scrivener: alcoholism and cynicism. In the late ’30s, Guthrie wrote his first novel, Murders at Moon Dance, which was not published until 1943—and about which he would say, “I can’t say it is the worst book ever written, but I’ve long considered it as a contender.” Better things would come with his best-known novel, The Big Sky, published in 1947 and hailed in the national press—despite some quibbles about anachronisms in his portrayal of the West at the time of the mountain men, “lavishly embellished,” as one reviewer wrote, “with poetical foofaraw.” Guthrie later went to work writing and doctoring the scripts of western movies, including Shane, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Broad fame largely eluded him, but he earned a local reputation in the environs of Missoula, Mont., for being a barfly. Involvement with local conservation issues and the university rehabilitated that reputation in time. Toward the end of his life, he would assert, “Thomas Jefferson once swore enmity against any tyranny over the mind of man. I have sworn opposition to abusers of the land.” Benson offers a sympathetic, well-written portrait that is long on the life but a little short on the literature—which is perhaps understandable, since Guthrie is little read these days.

A worthy treatment of an interesting subject, which, one hopes, will inspire renewed interest in Guthrie’s body of work.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8032-2286-1

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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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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