Comprehensive and fair, though a little more warmth toward Parsons would have made the book more engaging.

GODDESS OF ANARCHY

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LUCY PARSONS, AMERICAN RADICAL

Tough-minded biography of a fiery revolutionary whose activism spanned the decades from Reconstruction to the New Deal.

Bancroft Prize winner Jones (Chair, History and Ideas/Univ. of Texas; A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America, 2013, etc.) evinces considerable respect for her subject, a woman born into slavery who gained fame in 1880s Chicago as one of the anarchist movement’s most vocal advocates of violent revolt. But the author finds plenty to criticize about Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), beginning with her decision, when she left Texas with her white husband, Albert, to disguise her racial identity and to almost entirely ignore the plight of African-Americans as she battled for the working class. Jones deplores the couple’s praise of “the dear stuff dynamite” as an instrument of liberation—loose talk that helped convict Albert and seven other anarchists of conspiracy to murder in the wake of an 1886 demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square even though none of them threw the dynamite that killed seven policemen. The biographer’s sympathies are clearly with more pragmatic radicals like Mother Jones, who argued that the anarchists’ theatrical tactics and rhetoric were distractions in the struggle for real reforms like the eight-hour working day. Jones also finds distasteful Lucy’s embrace of traditional gender roles, promoting herself as the widow of a Haymarket martyr and plugging her self-published copies of Albert’s biography at every opportunity while leading a sexually free life and railroading her son into an insane asylum after a quarrel. Nonetheless, the author acknowledges Lucy’s gifts as an orator and salutes her refusal to be relegated to a subordinate role by her male comrades. “In the end,” she concludes, “there are few lives that are not a bundle of contradictions and shortcomings.” Parsons remained committed to radical causes throughout her long life and gave her last speech, to a group of striking workers, scarcely a year before her death in 1942.

Comprehensive and fair, though a little more warmth toward Parsons would have made the book more engaging.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-07899-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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