An uplifting, unconventional, and deeply imaginative remembrance.

THE TOWER PRINCESS

A FAIRY TALE LIVED

A communications executive with debilitating pain finds comfort and self-understanding in fairy tales in this memoir.

In 1993, after Tocher injured her back, she was forced to close her Toronto-based communications firm. She suffered for a further seven years with chronic pain without successful treatment, and she was on the brink of what she calls “dangerous depression” when she chose an unconventional way to help herself. Tocher’s interest in fairy tales was first piqued in 1981 after she attended a storytelling event featuring Irish bard Alice Kane. She developed such a great love for the wisdom in such stories that she looked to the folklore genre for solace in her time of need. In these pages, she focuses particularly on retelling stories of tower princesses, such as Rapunzel, while drawing parallels between their plights and her own: “Chronic pain had put me in a tower, and I often described my body as a prison of bones.” Tocher introduces the reader to a world of mythical creatures—such as fairy godmothers, gnomes, and dragons—which inform her inner world, while also reporting “concurrent events” of her “outer life.” As the author battles with the pain of what was later diagnosed as fibromyalgia, she draws upon the “radical, restorative power” of old, overlooked stories and ultimately finds comfort in this “mirror world.” Along the way, this memoir tantalizingly skirts the gossamer divide between fantasy and reality, as when the author describes visions she had, such as one of Mother Earth prostrate and unconscious.

Tocher’s approach to storytelling effectively captures the playfulness of classic fairy tales but adds a contemporary zing. For example, here’s her description of a character named Gothel, whom some readers may know from the Disney film Tangled: “Dame Gothel is in a real funk. She sits in her parlor on her massive walnut chair, holding her knobby knees to her chest….She bites her nails and mutters to herself, her eyes searching the room, searching everywhere.” Tocher’s writing style recaptures the delight of hearing timeless stories as a child but also delivers a thoughtful and deeply personal close reading of such tales and their philosophical messages: “I was Dame Gothel…trying to force natural things into models of perfection that they themselves couldn’t possibly attain.” The memoir also shares simple but timely advice, as in a passage told in the voice of a fairy godmother: “Do not get caught between the mirrors. You cannot be one person on the inside and another on the outside.” Some readers may consider such fantastical elements in a memoir to be a way of evading the truth. But it this case, readers learn a great deal about Tocher’s deepest hopes and dreams through her fairy-story interpretations, which she employs as a “mirror for the soul.” This book does not purport to remedy physical pain, but it does demonstrate how fairy tales can help promote self-understanding and lighten one’s emotional burden—and it’s a true joy to read as it does so.

An uplifting, unconventional, and deeply imaginative remembrance.

Pub Date: May 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9738776-0-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wonderlit Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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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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