Of modest interest as an admonition to the potentially wayward. But Richler’s book has a better payoff.

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HATS & EYEGLASSES

A FAMILY LOVE AFFAIR WITH GAMBLING

A competent though slight reminiscence of days of wine and flushes.

Those who have read Mordecai Richler’s novel Joshua Then and Now will be familiar with entertainment journalist Frankel’s father and his cronies, tough immigrants with names like Cha Cha, Broadway and Sammy B who aspired to get out of the Bronx projects and passed the time playing poker and pinochle. The Frankels did get out, moving across town to an apartment in Queens with a nice view of the 1964 World’s Fair site, then under construction. The game followed: men in one room playing poker, women in the other playing canasta. “I learned to read the Daily Racing Form,” writes Frankel. “I learned about daily doubles and exactas, started to recognize the jockeys from one week to the next, learned the name of the man who sold the tickets, the one who smiled at me and said, ‘Hope this one’s a big winner, honey,’ as he handed the tickets to my father.” Such is the vanity of human wishes; Frankel’s memoir turns up few winning moments, its title referring to the bupkes that pop brought down on the low-stakes circuit of backroom poker and OTB. Frankel doesn’t do much better, coached along by an ex-con cousin who is distinctly unimpressed by the list she carries that runs from a pair to a straight flush (“‘Because I can’t remember what comes between three-of-a-kind and four-of-a-kind,’ I whine”). Still, she holds her own, self-aware enough to know her strengths and weaknesses as a player and smart enough to impress fellow inmates at a writers’ workshop. At that, the book has a workshoppy feel, with a few feints at drama—Is she a gambling addict? Will she lose her shirt at Harrah’s?—and the requisite what-I-learned lesson: “I’m no longer out of control, fighting a dragon I could never slay.”

Of modest interest as an admonition to the potentially wayward. But Richler’s book has a better payoff.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58542-558-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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