Frank wisely leaves the minutia of spotting duplication in their works to Defoe scholars while she focuses on the values and...

CRUSOE

DANIEL DEFOE, ROBERT KNOX, AND THE CREATION OF A MYTH

Alexander Selkirk’s ordeal as a castaway may have seeded the plot for Robinson Crusoe, but Daniel Defoe’s tale is a clear reflection of his own life’s struggles.

At the end of his life, Defoe labeled Crusoe more of an allegory than a novel, implying a good degree of autobiography at the same time. Biographer Frank (Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi, 2002) introduces Robert Knox, once a true captive, who survived on his wits and the English practice of making your environment adapt to your needs rather than adjusting to it. Defoe mined information from a vast library, including The Odyssey, The Tempest, Pilgrim’s Progress and an extensive number of published accounts of castaways. As Defoe cherry-picked incidents from different lives, he adapted them to reflect disasters he had suffered. He also had no compunction about fitting other stories neatly into his own. His Captain Singleton contained blatantly lifted passages from Knox’s published story of his 19-year captivity in Ceylon. Frank parallels the lives and adventures of Defoe, Knox and Crusoe, illustrating a deep relationship between author and models. This side-by-side biography of the two men shows similarities between their lives and their attitudes toward disaster, although their personalities and moralities were markedly different. Many have said that Crusoe is much more a self-help book than a novel, while Knox’s story is a treatise rather than a travel book. They both exhibit a similarly distinct philosophy of life. Defoe proselytizes on morals, lessons and their meanings while encouraging his readers to turn the challenges of adversity into advantage. Knox teaches by example.

Frank wisely leaves the minutia of spotting duplication in their works to Defoe scholars while she focuses on the values and beliefs of the two men. Knox came out to be the better of the two, and his little-known story deserves reading.

Pub Date: April 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-334-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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