Kaufman’s fans will enjoy it, but so will Hecht’s.

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WAS THIS MAN A GENIUS?

TALKS WITH ANDY KAUFMAN

An amusing enough trifle for those who believe we really need another book about Andy Kaufman.

The year was 1978, or maybe 1979. Although she didn’t consider herself a journalist, let alone a celebrity profiler, short-story writer Hecht (Do the Windows Open?, 1997) was asked by an editor at Harper’s to do a piece on comedian Kaufman, who was all the rage at the time. Instead of a magazine-sized article, she ended up with a 150-page narrative (published here for the first time) detailing her yearlong attempt to get the man to sit down and do an “official” interview. Along the way, she endured elaborate jokes and pranks orchestrated by Kaufman (abetted by his ever-present sidekick Bob Zmuda), got into absurd arguments with him, ate meals with his family on Long Island, had long talks with his mother, listened to him obsess over sex and food, goaded him to take better care of himself, observed him prevaricate his way through interviews with other magazine writers, and eventually became one of Kaufman’s friends . . . sort of. The official interview—a two-hour Q&A over mediocre vegetarian food at Soho’s famous Spring Street Natural restaurant—didn’t actually happen until Hecht had been chasing Kaufman for a year. But by this time, the journey itself had become the destination, and Hecht had already learned about as much as she was going to from this consistently enigmatic prankster and absurdist. Written mostly in dialogue (peppered with funny and often trenchant asides from Hecht), the book paints a very specific portrait of Kaufman—a performer who treated his audience alternately with generosity or contempt—while leaving intact some essential mysteries about his personality and character. Just when Kaufman seems to have revealed some basic truth about himself—for example, the late admission that all he ever wanted to be in life was a “children’s entertainer”—he says or does something to contradict himself. The question posed by the title is, mercifully, left unanswered by Hecht, who quietly reveals herself as the perfect foil to Kaufman’s antics: centered, skeptical, opinionated, but not without humor or compassion.

Kaufman’s fans will enjoy it, but so will Hecht’s.

Pub Date: April 17, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50457-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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