An immensely captivating consideration of reality TV and a moving reflection on marriage.

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ON LOVE AND REALITY TV

Intelligent musings on reality TV and marriage.

Since the massively successful reality competition show Survivor debuted in 2000, there have been hundreds of articles and books about reality TV. This one, by Mann (Creative Writing/Univ. of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Lord Fear, 2015, etc.), is enlivened and distinguished by the author’s genuine appreciation for the genre’s form and content. Mann has a shrewd eye for exposing the formulaic production values inherent in these programs, and he clearly sees beneath the celebrity ambitions of the reality stars. Yet he remains a devoted fan, understanding and sometimes reveling in who is compulsively watchable, whether it’s any one of the Kardashians, NeNe Leakes from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Jax Taylor from Vanderpump Rules, or any of the family members who inhabit the bizarre universe of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The author ably identifies the authentic elements in these programs that make them so compelling, and he considers how these heightened dramas and extreme personalities serve as mirrors to our lives—and, more personally, to his relationship with his wife. Their enduring bond often revolves around their shared fascination (obsessions?) with the characters who inhabit these shows, and his reflections on his marriage frequently reflect the dramas that unfold. “Somewhere in here I’m telling our story, right? That’s at least part of the idea,” he writes. “But look how it has streamlined. Look at how little life there is—just sporadic emotional plot points—even as I felt I was revealing so much. Look how I focus on the loud bangs and the sulky silences…refusing to let you and me be fully realized on the page, to be human in any way beyond broad, emotive strokes.” If Mann doesn’t quite elevate reality TV to an art form—and that’s unlikely his intention—he makes a persuasive argument for readers to sit up and take notice. The cultural implications are perhaps more potent than we’d like to believe.

An immensely captivating consideration of reality TV and a moving reflection on marriage.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-43554-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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