KNOWING WHEN TO STOP

A MEMOIR

Wordy half-a-life story by tireless composer and tiresome raconteur and diarist Rorem (The Nantucket Diary, 1987, etc.). Rorem is one of the great 20th-century composers of art songs: brief, pithy, and often witty compositions that have become a fixture in the vocal repertoire. Sadly, his writing is as verbose and overwrought as his music is to the point. In this bulky tome, he is only able to recount the first three decades of his life, up to 1952. Raised in Chicago, he devotes the first third of the book to his young life, mostly focusing on his precocious gay cruising in the city's parks. The narrative then turns to music school at Curtis and Juilliard; his early days in New York City; and his artistic roamings in postWW II Paris and Morocco, where he encountered such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomas, Jean Cocteau, Tennessee Williams, and Paul Bowles. Rorem is such an egotist that his portraits, even when sympathetic, are often reduced to sometimes pithy, sometimes annoying aphorisms (Bernstein ``forever combined generosity with competitiveness''; John Cage is ``a fake...but a fake what?''). When he's not expounding barstool philosophy (``the artistic tendency is not there from the start...what is there...is the gene of quality'') or overblown, ponderous prose (``I examined the world in a grain of sand, the civilizations in the furrows of that porous brick an inch from the eye, and wept at the limitless melancholy latent in this new perspective''), he's offering a catalogue raisonnÇ, as it were, of his sex life—and incidentally of his musical works. His attempts to explain away his often blatant anti-Semitism and his use of coy asides (``I never told Dora, and hope you won't tell her now'') are just two of this memoir's more irritating features. A Ror-ation full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Stop already. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-72872-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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