A briskly told story of two women questing for fame.

FEUDING FAN DANCERS

FAITH BACON, SALLY RAND, AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE SHOWGIRL

In the 1920s and '30s, showgirls worked hard, hustled, and competed in a brutal entertainment business.

Actress, filmmaker, and historian of burlesque Zemeckis (Goddess of Love Incarnate: The Life of Striptease Artist Lili St. Cyr, 2015, etc.) focuses on fan dancers Faith Bacon (1910-1956) and Sally Rand (1904-1979) and reveals their struggles, dreams, and glittery triumphs. Frances Yvonne Bacon was groomed and manipulated by an ambitious stage mother who pretended to be her sister and sometimes performed in the same shows. In her teens, Yvonne, who later changed her name to Faith, was one among many other young women “sought, hired, prized, and praised for the perfection of their figures.” Scantily clothed, resplendent in jewels and feathers, they paraded in “respectable, naughty” extravaganzas mounted by impresarios such as Florenz Ziegfeld or his competitor Earl Carroll, an egotistical “Hugh Hefneresque” figure. Broadway, the author writes, “was assaulted with ruthless promoters of beauty and flesh trying to one up the other.” The women they hired, though, were proud of their bodies and eager for admiration. At the age of 19, working for Carroll, Faith was “at her most luminous,” with “blue-grey eyes, winsome and doe-eyed with a slim alabaster figure.” In one of Carroll’s productions, she had an idea: to get around the law, which forbade a nude performer from moving on stage, she would dance covered with fans, then stop, raise them above her head, and reveal herself naked. The fan dance became her signature—until Hattie Helen Beck, aka Billie Beck, aka Sally Rand, performed it “to thunderous applause” at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Unlike Faith, who was emotionally fragile, Sally was resilient, enterprising, and unsinkable. Still performing at the age of 60, she remarked proudly, “what in heaven’s name is strange about a grandmother dancing nude?” Faith sued Sally, claiming ownership of the fan dance, but Sally prevailed. Widely acclaimed, she performed for some 7 million people throughout the world. Faith, addicted to barbiturates and destitute, killed herself.

A briskly told story of two women questing for fame.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-114-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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