An exciting work of scholarship by a masterly poet.

THE FIRST POETS

LIVES OF THE ANCIENT GREEK POETS

A dense, spirited, deeply thoughtful prequel to English poet and editor Schmidt’s Lives of the Poets (1999).

Assuming that his audience is as devoted as he is to the importance of classical texts, the author argues that readers should not be “impoverished by a pragmatic sense of historical fact” and miss out on the fun of reconstructing the dauntingly inaccessible lives of the poets who created them. In his magisterial introduction, Schmidt sets out the physical evidence discovered over the millennia in papyri, tablets, amphora, and the like, then elucidates the function of scribes and libraries. “For the ancients, poetry socialized people,” he writes, emphasizing the oral tradition that dominated in Homer’s heroic age. By the fifth century b.c., the act of writing down poems already invited distortion and embellishment. In 15 chapters, Schmidt sifts through the available evidence—often elusive, sibylline, and apocryphal—and conflicting scholarship to give shape to the lives of poets as celebrated as Pindar (favored by English poets) and Apollonius (“who understands, honours and even privileges the female perspective”), as well as the more obscure Mimnermus of Colophon (“an elegist of pleasure”) and Hipponax of Ephesus (“a notable sourpuss”). The author treats two female poets, Sappho and Corinna of Tanagra (the latter may have beaten Pindar in poetry contests) while delicately acknowledging the “rebarbative” (repellent) nature of the classical male perspective, which puts off female readers and translators. Schmidt devotes three chapters to Homer and his legend, examining everything from the bard’s paternity to theories of collaborative composition and the archaeological finds that have borne out the verses’ topographical accuracy. The author has traveled to the places inhabited by these poets and endows their lives with an intimate sense of the physical landscape. Like the transmission of these texts over the ages, each of Schmidt’s chapters comment on its predecessor, and the reader willing to stick with his tireless documentation will be amply rewarded.

An exciting work of scholarship by a masterly poet.

Pub Date: March 28, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-41120-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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