An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

WRITING HARD STORIES

CELEBRATED MEMOIRISTS WHO SHAPED ART FROM TRAUMA

Investigations into the struggles of rendering painful memories on the page.

Acclaimed memoirist Mary Karr once said, “writing a memoir, if it’s done right, is like knocking yourself out with your own fist.” It’s difficult and especially painful to write about dark, difficult memories. Brooks’ (Professional Writing/Northeastern Univ.) own experience of trying to write a memoir about her father’s death from a secret AIDS infection had been “agonizing” and “terrifying,” so she decided to travel the country to interview and learn from memoirists whose books confronted these subjects head-on. Over and over, the authors told her that these were stories they had to write. Andre Dubus III felt he “had to pull out of the dark and hold up to the light” the story about his difficult relationship with his famous author father. After he finished Townie (2011),“it felt really good….I felt cleansed.” Sue William Silverman’s “raw and profoundly vulnerable” Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You (1996) exposed 14 years of sexual abuse she suffered while her mother remained silent and “complicit.” After poet Mark Doty’s partner of 12 years died from AIDS, he wrote Heaven’s Coast (1996): “I have not been immobilized by grief, but I have certainly carried it with me.” Edwidge Danticat’s “exquisite and heartbreaking” Brother, I’m Dying (2007), about her Haitian father and uncle, is a “powerful witness to the large-scale injustices so many immigrants face upon entering this country.” She told Brooks that it’s the “most beautiful memorial I could have created for [them].” “Gender outlaw” Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger recounts “desperately [trying] to be someone she was not” and escaping the Church of Scientology to finally find fulfillment after gender reassignment surgery. Other authors interviewed include Kim Stafford, Richard Blanco, Richard Hoffman, Kyoko Mori, and Jerald Walker.

An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7881-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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