A readable, balanced portrait of a great humanist.

C.S. LEWIS

A LIFE

Prolific English biographer White (Leonardo, 2000, etc.) delineates in lively fashion the less than saintly life of the Christian apologist, children’s author, Luddite, and fuddy-duddy Oxford don.

Best known for his Chronicles of Narnia, a charming allegorical adventure disguising a complex Christian hierarchy, Lewis was first and foremost a scholar of medieval and Renaissance English literature, a tutor at Oxford for most of his life, and a drinking comrade of fellow don J.R.R. Tolkien and their disputatious group of Inklings. Born Clive Staples in 1898 to middle-class Protestant parents in Belfast, young Jack (as he was known) enjoyed an insular fantasy world with his older brother until their mother’s death when he was nine. Privately tutored to enter Oxford during WWI, he made a deathbed promise to take care of a soldier friend’s mother, which turned into a 30-year relationship with Janie Moore, estranged but never divorced from her husband and a good 20 years Lewis’s senior. White offers opinionated speculation on “Mother,” as Lewis called her, with whom he lived at his Oxford home and about whom he never spoke openly; despite Lewis’s Evangelical disciples who insist it was a platonic mother-son relationship, White reminds us that “apart from his brilliance, Jack Lewis was a man like any other.” A late bloomer as a writer, Lewis began tapping into his childhood fantasy world in 1938 with the Ransom series, followed by The Screwtape Letters (correspondence between two devils) and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which in 1950 inaugurated the seven-volume Narnia series. White impishly refutes the portrait of Lewis as “St. Jack of Oxford,” frankly discussing his religious orthodoxy, elitism, and antimodernism in all forms, as well as his eyebrow-raising later liaison with American pen pal Joy Gresham. A previous biographer of Tolkien, the author also offers a thorough look at the crucial support and influence each writer had on the other’s work.

A readable, balanced portrait of a great humanist.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1376-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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