Smart cultural history and a level-headed tribute to the impresario “always ready to proceed with cautious boldness wherever...

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IMPRESARIO

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ED SULLIVAN

Solid, savvy biography of the stone-faced showman who brought the whole spectrum of American culture into the nation’s living rooms.

Pop-culture author Maguire (American Bee, not reviewed) spends a bit too much time on his subject’s apprenticeship as a sportswriter and gossip columnist before moving on to the legendary variety show that ran from the dawn of television in 1948 through 1971. Sullivan (1901–74) was a fairly typical Broadway columnist, and his years as such certainly shaped his show’s all-inclusive ethos. It was only after years of failing to find a niche in radio or Hollywood (newspapers could never fully assuage his lust for media celebrity) that he found his true calling when CBS tapped him to host Toast of the Town. The fledgling network hoped Sullivan’s status as columnist could strong-arm major stars into appearing on the minimally funded program. It did, but the essence of Ed’s ability to fend off better-heeled rivals like The Colgate Comedy Hour lay in his keen sense of just what Mr. and Mrs. America—and their kids—wanted to see. The Ed Sullivan Show (as it was renamed in 1955) mixed opera stars and Broadway musicals with animal acts and rock-’n’-roll in a “Big Tent” that offered something for every taste. Maguire correctly notes that Sullivan’s role as host (derided for his stiff demeanor) was far less important than the influence he wielded as producer, choosing every act and often changing the lineup at the last minute based on the dress-rehearsal audience’s reactions. He was alert enough to trends to book Elvis and the Beatles, though their advent signaled a generation gap that would ultimately doom the Big Tent approach. Sullivan, who lived for his work, survived only a few years beyond the show’s cancellation and wife Sylvia’s near-simultaneous death.

Smart cultural history and a level-headed tribute to the impresario “always ready to proceed with cautious boldness wherever the audience was ready to go, and sometimes where they weren’t.”

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8230-7962-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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