Conners sometimes falls into hero worship, especially of Ginsberg, and the time frame is occasionally unclear, but he...




A full account of the two 1960s icons who made it their cause to launch the psychedelic age.

BOA Editions editor Conners (Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead, 2009, etc.) begins with sketches of his subjects’ early years, then moves to 1960, when they met. By then, Ginsberg was the famous symbol of the Beat generation, open about both drugs and sexuality. Leary, a Harvard instructor, had begun using mescaline to research schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Another Harvard psychologist introduced the two, thinking Leary might find the poet an interesting subject. Each was convinced of the importance of psychedelics, and the two had complementary strengths: Ginsberg’s wide connections in the artistic world and Leary’s cachet as a Harvard researcher. In November 1960, they created a plan to spread the gospel of psychedelics. Letters went out to writers, jazz musicians, artists and others who might try the drugs and spread the word. But Leary underestimated how straight society would react as Harvard, then the world at large, became aware of his drug sessions. Losing his job in a blaze of publicity, Leary went on the road in his new role as prophet of LSD. Meanwhile, Ginsberg was pursuing mystical paths to enlightenment in India. They grew apart as the ’60s played out—Leary as the leading advocate of a drug-fueled counterculture, Ginsberg as an advocate of peace and social change. Leary increasingly became the target of busts and persecution, and eventually went to prison in California. After escaping, he fled overseas, but was recaptured and served hard time until he turned state’s evidence to gain his freedom. The two men were never really close thereafter, but their paths crossed from time to time, surrounded by a cast of characters ranging from Ken Kesey to G. Gordon Liddy.

Conners sometimes falls into hero worship, especially of Ginsberg, and the time frame is occasionally unclear, but he provides an entertaining overview of an era whose echoes still ring.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-87286-535-8

Page Count: 330

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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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