As provocative as it is amusing—an edifying journey through the mind of a major talent.

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PROFESSOR AT LARGE

THE CORNELL YEARS

In this probing collection of essays and lectures given during his tenure as Cornell University's “professor at large,” Cleese (So, Anyway…, 2014, etc.) reminds us that his intelligence and wit extend well beyond Monty Python and Fawlty Towers.

The beloved British comic actor, writer, and director began his academic association with Cornell in 1999, when he was invited to serve as a visiting professor, holding forth on everything from The Life of Brian and the nature of religion to creativity, screenwriting, group dynamics, and physiognomy. He has continued guiding these scholarly workshops and classes flecked with humor for almost 20 years. This book assembles the best of them in a thoughtful, engaging way—at least to liberal thinkers—though the author sometimes succumbs to broad generalizations. Apart from his look at frameworks that fire creative energies, of particular note is his discussion of the dichotomy between the authoritarian impulse of organized religion and the liberating mysticism expressed by Buddhism. Cleese also offers trenchant (if familiar) commentary on political and cultural matters while relating much practical knowledge about film and TV, including the eventual demise of the Pythons. Although aspects of it are somewhat dated, movie buffs will savor a long, detailed, often eye-opening interview Cleese conducted in 2000 with respected screenwriter William Goldman—during which Cleese also recalls his experiences writing and performing in A Fish Called Wanda. In “The Human Face,” the author talks to developmental psychologist Stephen J. Ceci, and the two brilliantly explore the parameters of perception and recognition, with an illustrative aside on the “golden mean.” Cleese, 78, reveals a sharp but humane sensibility as well as a wicked sense of humor when it comes to human frailty. What surprises is the depth of his understanding.

As provocative as it is amusing—an edifying journey through the mind of a major talent.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5017-1657-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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