Cliché and hyperbole vitiate this pathetic parable, whose larger cultural significance struggles for attention amid detailed...

AMERICAN EVE

EVELYN NESBIT, STANFORD WHITE, THE BIRTH OF THE “IT” GIRL, AND THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY

Uruburu (English/Hofstra Univ.) sees the sensational, salacious career of Evelyn Nesbit as a cautionary tale about a preternaturally beautiful pubescent Red Ridinghood surrounded by hungry wolves in the dark woods of early 20th-century Manhattan.

Born on Christmas day near Pittsburgh, Pa., probably in 1884 (her mother was always vague about the year), Nesbit lost her father at 11 and by age 13 was supporting her family as an artist’s model. In late 1900, she came with her brother and mother to New York City, where she became a wildly popular subject for painters and photographers. (A generous selection of illustrations shows why.) Nesbit was the first in an American procession of very young, very attractive girls who all eventually disappeared down celebrity’s maw, writes the author. She attracted the notice of powerful moneyed men, including architect Stanford White and insane Harry K. Thaw, scion of a Pittsburgh fortune, who eventually married Nesbit and in 1906 shot and killed White in view of a crowd on the roof of Madison Square Garden. At the ensuing trials (the first ended with a hung jury), Nesbit told the sordid story of how White had paid her mother to take a trip out of town in 1901 and leave 16-year-old Evelyn in his care; he then plied her with champagne and raped her in his Garden tower. Her scandalous testimony reversed the arc of Nesbit’s fame, sending her into a 60-year decline, years covered swiftly in the book’s final paragraphs. Uruburu accepts Nesbit’s version of the events throughout, quoting liberally from her two memoirs and portraying her as an innocent victim of powerful men and a bad mother. The author’s stout defense is sometimes couched in prose as florid as that of the fin-de-siècle journalism she deplores: “Seconds later, a startlingly loud gunshot pierced the torpid night air.”

Cliché and hyperbole vitiate this pathetic parable, whose larger cultural significance struggles for attention amid detailed accounts of the rapacious principals’ perversions.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59448-993-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more