An intriguing examination of the complexity of female power in a variety of relationships.

THE POWER NOTEBOOKS

A collection of personal journal entries from the feminist writer that explores power dynamics and “a subject [she] kept coming back to: women strong in public, weak in private.”

Cultural critic and essayist Roiphe (Cultural Reporting and Criticism/New York Univ.; The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End, 2016, etc.), perhaps best known for the views she expressed on victimization in The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism (1994), is used to being at the center of controversy. In her latest work, the author uses her personal journals to examine the contradictions that often exist between the public and private lives of women, including her own. At first, the fragmented notebook entries seem overly scattered, but they soon evolve into a cohesive analysis of the complex power dynamics facing women on a daily basis. As Roiphe shares details from her own life, she weaves in quotes from the writings of other seemingly powerful female writers who had similar experiences, including Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, and Hillary Clinton. In one entry, Roiphe theorizes that her early published writings were an attempt to “control and tame the narrative,” further explaining that she has “so long and so passionately resisted the victim role” because she does not view herself as “purely a victim” and not “purely powerless.” However, she adds, that does not mean she “was not facing a man who was twisting or distorting his power; it does not mean that the wrongness, the overwhelmed feeling was not there.” Throughout the book, the author probes the question of why women so often subjugate their power in their private lives, but she never quite finds a satisfying answer. The final entry, however, answers the question of why she chose to share these personal journal entries with the public: “To be so exposed feels dangerous, but having done it, I also feel free.”

An intriguing examination of the complexity of female power in a variety of relationships.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2801-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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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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