Fast-moving and entertaining.

READ REVIEW

13

THE STORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SUPERSTITION

Do you believe that 13 is an unlucky number? This book may cure you.

In the late 19th century, members of the “Thirteen Club” met on Fridays, walking under ladders and breaking mirrors before sitting down to dinner, 13 at a table, to show their contempt for superstition. The belief that 13 at a table is unlucky, argues Lachenmeyer (The Outsider, 1999), was the earliest superstition involving the number. Symbolically connected to the Last Supper, it usually entailed the belief that one of the diners would die within the year. Surprisingly, the evil associations of 13 aren’t as old as many believe. The earliest known reference to 13 at a table is by the Earl of Rochester in 1680, and Lachenmeyer finds scant mention of unlucky 13 in folklore of earlier periods. The Norse tale of Baldur, murdered at a gathering of 13 gods, is often cited as a pagan source, but texts preserving the myth are from Christian times and may well have been influenced by the model of the Last Supper. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that the earliest clear reference to Friday the 13th is the title of a novel published in 1907. Lachenmeyer refutes wiccans and neopagans who contend that 13 is a holy number of the old religion, suppressed and slandered by the Catholic Church. In fact, he notes, the church views lucky and unlucky numbers as foolish if not sinful beliefs. A survey of related superstitions provides interesting factoids: Tuesday, not Friday, is the unlucky day in many European countries; the symbolism of 13 on the US dollar bill refers to the 13 colonies; and several proposed calendar reforms offer 13 months, each containing a Friday the 13th. Some amusing lists enliven the presentation.

Fast-moving and entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2004

ISBN: 1-56858-306-0

Page Count: 238

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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