Affable but often self-aggrandizing.

CHASING CHINA

HOW I LOST A FORTUNE AND FOUND A LIFE IN SHANGHAI

An amusing, helter-skelter memoir by a Welsh publishing entrepreneur who found a quiet niche in China.

After traveling there in 1998, Kitto created the popular, short-lived that’s Shanghai series of magazines, modeled on London’s Timeout and inspired by H.E. Morriss’s North-China Daily News, which was closed by the Communists in 1951. His success rankled the Chinese bureaucracy, and after seven years in business he was shut down, marked a “Muslim separatist sympathizer” and forced into a long lawsuit over trademarks and a new career as a writer and cook. The first half of this disjointed work barely mentions the publishing business, instead dwelling on his discovery of a mountaintop retreat in Moganshan, a Victorian-era resort several hours outside of Shanghai where Europeans flocked in the summer and Communist leaders used as a haven for secret liaisons. Eventually Kitto, married to a Cantonese woman, leased and fixed up a secluded, terraced house in the town, cajoling and greasing the palms of contractors, workers and bureaucrats whose MO was routinely the response, Mei banfa (“there is no way” or “You’ll just have to live with it”). Between putting out fires (literally), throwing an obsequious banquet and digging up hairy bamboo (maozhu), the town’s specialty, Kitto offers an ample history of Moganshan from colonial heyday to Communist debilitation. He records the startling changes that took place in Shanghai and witnessed the tourist surge in his wake; he and his wife even opened a coffee shop in town. Kitto obviously enjoys playing the comfortable expat Englishman, congratulating himself on his bargain smarts and hardly contrite about leaving his home country (“Shanghai is a notorious refuge for runaways,” he notes).

Affable but often self-aggrandizing.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60239-657-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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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