An entertaining though entirely unflattering biography that will certainly provoke debate.

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE

THE UNTOLD STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND MARY TODD

A portrait of “the sad story of the Lincolns’ domestic life,” which “has long been glossed over.”

Although neither of the couple’s stories is untold, Lincoln scholar Burlingame’s intense focus on their marriage may raise hackles despite generous documentation, citations, and footnotes. Few historians would argue that Mary Todd Lincoln was a gentle soul. All agree that she vigorously encouraged her husband’s political ambitions and treated his enemies as her own, but none deny that she was difficult, prone to “henpecking” and unpredictable behavior. Throughout her life, she exhibited mood swings that ranged from fierce rages to deep depression to bizarre public outbursts that have persuaded some scholars, Burlingame included, that she suffered from bipolar disorder. In her defense, many point out that the premature deaths of three of four sons devastated her, and she was at Lincoln’s side holding his hand when he was shot. Readers will be informed and disheartened as they read page after page of dismal reports from Lincoln’s Springfield neighbors and colleagues about Mary’s tantrums, which often drove him to spend the night in his office. One of Mary’s chronic complaints was her husband’s long absences, which were excessive, Burlingame explains, because he preferred to stay away. For years, he and other lawyers “rode the circuit” of central Illinois on business. All returned home during the weekends except Lincoln. Few scholars defend Mary’s behavior after Lincoln won the presidency, when she accepted bribes from corrupt office seekers and then forced an often reluctant Lincoln to appoint them. Burlingame implies that her unpopularity may have contributed to the death of her husband. Ulysses Grant was invited to Ford’s Theater, but his wife vetoed it because she did not want to sit in a theater box with Mary. Deploring Mary was the rule until two generations of diligent feminist scholarship corrected traditional male prejudices. As a result, she now receives more sympathetic treatment, so Burlingame’s portrait may strike readers as a throwback.

An entertaining though entirely unflattering biography that will certainly provoke debate.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-734-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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