A warts-and-all portrait that leaves readers lamenting Darrow’s private failings, while still in awe of his immensely...

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CLARENCE DARROW

ATTORNEY FOR THE DAMNED

A comprehensive biography of the storied defense attorney.

At midlife, embarrassed by his comfortable railroad practice so at odds with his personal beliefs, Clarence Darrow (1857–1938) took on a series of high-profile cases whose underlying political, sociological and economic issues placed him at the white-hot center of the Progressive Era. His starring role in these courtroom dramas turned him into a legend. Making elaborate use of transcripts, observers’ accounts, correspondence and newspaper reports, Farrell (Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century, 2002) chronicles Darrow’s most celebrated trials in detail: the defense of labor leaders Eugene Debs and “Big Bill” Haywood; the McNamara brothers, charged with firebombing the Los Angeles Times headquarters; homosexual thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb; Ossian Sweet, accused of murder for defending his home against a racist mob; John Scopes for teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee law; and the friends and family of Thalia Massie, on trial in Hawaii for a so-called “honor killing.” These cases—including two in which Darrow, almost surely guilty, was himself tried for jury tampering—dominate the narrative, but Farrell neatly places them within the larger context of this complicated man’s crowded life and practice. He covers Darrow’s small-town upbringing, his brief country-lawyer career, his move to Chicago and his rise within the city’s political and legal establishment. A puzzling mix of towering ego and bottomless compassion, Darrow was also an author and an in-demand lecturer who more than dabbled in politics. Also at home within bohemian circles, Darrow preferred the company of artists, professors and poets. (Edgar Lee Masters, who grew to despise him, was for a time his legal partner.) Twice-married, Darrow was also an inveterate womanizer, money grubber and shameless self-promoter who often bent the ethical code to combat what he saw as corrupt prosecutions. Farrell unflinchingly addresses these shortcomings, even as he underscores the genuine brilliance of a still-unmatched advocate for underdogs everywhere.

A warts-and-all portrait that leaves readers lamenting Darrow’s private failings, while still in awe of his immensely consequential career.

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-52258-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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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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