A sometimes-unfocused but often witty and thought-provoking portrait of a showbiz life.

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HOMOAMERICAN

THE SECRET SOCIETY

A gay man recounts his struggle to define himself while trying to find success as a dancer and singer in this debut memoir.

After a hardscrabble boyhood in San Francisco, 20-year-old Dane moved to New York City on a Juilliard ballet scholarship in 1975—the beginning of a long odyssey on the fringes of the arts and entertainment industry. He was a gifted dancer, but not quite superstar material; when his hopes of getting a spot in the storied American Ballet Theater company fizzled, he scrounged for other gigs. These included a contract with an Iranian ballet company in Tehran, which ended with his having to flee across the border to Turkey, and a stint with the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo troupe back in the United States. He lost both jobs because of poisonous office politics, he asserts, after his superior skills upstaged other, more powerful ensemble members. Seeking new horizons, Dane tried to launch a singing career with a Franco-Belgian record label that eventually went bankrupt; played the lover of then-unknown actor Madonna Ciccione in the low-budget indie film A Certain Sacrifice; produced his own play, which closed after three weeks; and made it through rough patches as a sex worker. He finally found steady employment in film and television as an extra in crowd scenes and in small parts as tough guys and waiters. Dane also had his share of romantic drama: His longtime boyfriend Gerard introduced him to the subculture of anonymous sex on the Hudson River waterfront and later succumbed to AIDS; and Bernard, another longtime boyfriend, made repeated suicide attempts.

Dane relates his misadventures in vivid prose with piquant character sketches—“Her bleached and permed locks and gruff demeanor create…a comical and fearsome impression of an aged peroxide abusing Shirley Temple doing her best Martha from ‘[Who’s Afraid of] Virginia Woolf’ ”—and evocative scenes of the not-so-fine arts: “This is no slick review,” he recalls of a strip-club audition, “this is take off your shirt, take off your shoes, hop around on one leg until you get out of your pants and underwear and then dance around naked and it really doesn’t matter what else you do.” It’s also a perceptive, if sometimes self-indulgent, portrait of a gay man in the post-Stonewall era, fighting to be himself as he weathers homophobic jibes and pressure to tone down the flamboyance (which he often resisted). There are some meandering passages in which Dane ponders his own image—“When did I become the person in this reflection?”—that bog the narrative down with an air of foggy narcissism. The memoir is more cogent and involving when the author looks outward at the social trappings of gender or the dank realities of sex: “He weighed a ton and smelled like an ashtray in a public toilet and I…couldn’t help but laugh to myself.” Readers will be captivated and amused by Dane as he pursues his starry-eyed hopes.

A sometimes-unfocused but often witty and thought-provoking portrait of a showbiz life.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-578-46328-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: HomoAmerican

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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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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