EXILED IN PARIS

RICHARD WRIGHT, JAMES BALDWIN, SAMUEL BECKETT, AND THEIR CIRCLE ON THE LEFT BANK

Portraits of various postWW II Paris-based writers capture the idiosyncratic personalities of literary notables but fail to cohere into a panorama. Campbell, who has written a biography of James Baldwin (Talking at the Gates, 1991), eagerly introduces his readers to a large group of American, French, and British authors. He opens with Richard Wright, expatriated just after the war, and his 1946 encounter with Gertrude Stein, then moves into a discussion of the important intellectual exchanges between Wright and Jean-Paul Sartre. Wright's presence drew Baldwin to Paris; the two soon had a falling out, however, which Campbell details sensitively. The author meanwhile develops another narrative, beginning with his fellow Scot Alexander Trocchi and the literary journal Merlin. Campbell describes the crucial role that Trocchi and his confederates played in the dissemination of Samuel Beckett's work and their eventual alliance with the notorious literary pornographer Maurice Girodias and his Olympia Press. (Beckett himself is only a shadowy presence here.) How does Campbell connect Wright, Baldwin, and their associates, on the one hand, with Trocchi, Girodias, and their publishing ventures on the other? The short answer is, he doesn't. Campbell explores the figure of the Negro delineated by African-American expatriates, as well as the derivative phenomenon of the ``white Negro''—making a strong case for French existentialist Boris Vian as its prototype, while also treating its celebration by the early Beats. He sketches the atmosphere of Cold War persecution and paranoia that gradually destroyed Wright and his cohorts, while also causing troubles for Olympia, with its porn-heavy list, but these parallels remain underdeveloped. Nevertheless, Campbell's effort has value as a series of miniatures that brings together such strangely similar contemporaneous artifacts as the novels of Chester Himes and The Story of O. Campbell is onto something—perhaps a third try with this material is in order.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 1995

ISBN: 0-689-12172-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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