Overwritten and overtly sensational.

THE SUPREMES

A SAGA OF MOTOWN DREAMS, SUCCESS, AND BETRAYAL

Acrid biography of the biggest female vocal group of all time.

Ribowsky (Josh Gibson: The Power and the Darkness, 2004, etc.) dredges up all the muck he can find on Motown Records’ hit-making trio, who tallied a dozen No. 1 pop-soul singles from 1964 through Diana Ross’ departure for a solo career in 1969. The outline will be familiar to readers of past memoirs by Ross, member Mary Wilson and Motown founder Berry Gordy, which the writer pillages extensively while castigating their lack of candor. Founded in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass projects by teenager Florence Ballard as a quartet originally known as the Primettes, the group was nurtured to international stardom, after several flop singles, by self-made music mogul Gordy. The label chief was severely smitten with the skinny, purring Ross, a turbine of selfish ambition who enjoyed short-lived affairs with Gordy’s adjutant Smokey Robinson and songwriter Brian Holland before taking up with her long-lusting boss after she hit pay dirt. Readers looking for another Dreamgirls should look elsewhere—no one escapes unscathed in this scabrous tome. Ross predictably emerges as an imperious, spotlight-hogging diva; Wilson is depicted as man-hungry, disloyal and timorous; the tragic Ballard, who died at 32 in 1976 after her brutal expulsion from the act she formed, is portrayed as a self-destructive, alcoholic loose cannon. Gordy hovers above the action as a deceitful, iron-fisted coveter of white-bread mainstream success who coldly robbed even his top act. Ribowsky, who relies heavily on secondary sources and testimony from disaffected members of the Motown “family,” excessively magnifies and explicates each torturous incident in the Supremes’ story. The author is also prone to five-dollar verbiage, frequently obvious flights of dim analysis and thudding attempts at cleverness.

Overwritten and overtly sensational.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-306-81586-7

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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