A valiant resurrection of an important early American author.

THE MUSE OF THE REVOLUTION

THE SECRET PEN OF MERCY OTIS WARREN AND THE FOUNDING OF A NATION

Hyperbolic biography of the Massachusetts patriot and author, told largely through her correspondence with John and Abigail Adams.

Stuart (The Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie Fox, 2005, etc.) longs to discover in Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814) a long-lost feminist heroine, and her overeagerness is palpable in such breathless section titles as “Conscience of the Revolution” and “Penwoman to Posterity.” Yes, Warren was the author of numerous popular satirical plays that criticized the British, as well as a three-volume history of the American Revolution. But she was first and foremost a devoted wife and mother who came to her patriotic ideals largely through her firebrand brother James (“taxation without representation is tyranny”) and their father, a merchant and judge in West Barnstable, Mass., who had long clashed with British authorities. She and husband James Warren, the high sheriff of Plymouth County, were swept up in the events of the early rebellion, clashing in particular with loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson. They hosted Sons of Liberty gatherings, Mercy composed a mock epic entitled “The Squabble of the Sea Nymphs” on the occasion of the Boston Tea Party, and James became president of the Provisional Congress after Bunker Hill. The revolution won, the Warrens moved aside from the political mainstream, feeling that the old patriotic, Puritan values were giving way to new money, profiteering and materialism. Though John Adams had urged her to write it, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution (1805) assessed the presidency of her neighbor and literary mentor in moderately unflattering terms, putting an eight-year damper on their friendship. Abigail Adams remained in touch with Mercy, and Stuart emphasizes throughout her account that notable women such as these were relegated to the wings, passing frenzied notes to their men taking action at center stage.

A valiant resurrection of an important early American author.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5516-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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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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