TRAMP

THE LIFE OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN

The little tramp takes some hard, muddy pratfalls in this masterful portrait of the artist as a swine. With anyone as well-chronicled as Charlie Chaplin, a new biography must pass the strictest tests of originality. Does it say something new or recast what is known in a different light? Milton (Loss of Eden, 1992, etc.) meets these criteria and more in this major reevaluation of a filmmaker whose one saving grace was his ability to make people laugh. His squalid London childhood was appalling—poverty, a mentally unstable actress mother, an absent alcoholic father. Chaplin got out as soon as he could, finding unexpected success as a music hall pantomime performer. Though Hollywood was eager to have him, he made little mark in his first few films. Then he created his ``Tramp'' character—the absurd mustache, the bowler and cane, the uneasy mix of pathos and buffoonery—and became a star of almost unimaginable proportions. Fame is rarely ennobling, but with Chaplin it offered too many opportunities to indulge his weaknesses. He pursued women— especially teenagers—obsessively; he cheated friends, cheated the IRS, stole ideas, supported unpleasant causes. All of this had little effect on his movies; perhaps it was even the wellspring of his talent, until he succumbed to the comedian's fatal temptation of taking himself seriously. Milton is particularly devastating in her analysis of how his films turned from ingenious slapstick to leaden, Stalinist posturings. Diagnosing the dead is always an iffy proposition, but she also makes an excellent case for Chaplin having been afflicted with manic-depression. Certainly, this would help explain his innumerable inconsistencies as well as his wild mood swings in which bursts of activity were followed by idle, sullen stretches. Despite the profusion of negatives, this is not a hatchet job. Rather, Milton presents a complex, insightful portrait of a man in whom genius and iniquity were inseparably combined. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-017052-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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