NOEL COWARD

A BIOGRAPHY

A full-scale life of the towering English songwriter and playwright. Writing about Coward in 1977, Kenneth Tynan wrote, ``The successful homosexual is answerable to nobody,'' and this could serve as the epigraph for this biography. Sprung from a suburban British background of lapsed wealth (his family tree includes ambassadors, professors, and composers), Coward invented his own self-contained reality from an early age. He knew he was gay at the age of 12—although, as Hoare delicately but definitively points out, he shied away from penetrative sex all his life. A perpetual outsider, Coward wouldn't be a member of any club but his own: He shunned his Catholic upbringing (he belonged to a circle of gay aesthetes who wrestled with their Catholicism, including Proust translator C.K. Scott Moncrieff), highbrow culture, and Hollywood alike. But money started talking, and by 1930, when he was declared the world's highest paid writer, his absolutist stance softened. He knew that his marketable strength was a cool xenophobia, and he laced it through such successful stage plays and films as Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit, and Fallen Angels. But Hoare (whose 1990 book, Serious Pleasures, was a life of the superdandy Stephen Tennant) paints Coward not so much as a crowd-pleaser as a gay subversive, insinuating homosexual notions into the mainstream. Because Hoare talked to Coward's friends and lovers, and shores up speculation with detailed sources, this is a believable position. The final stages of Coward's life seem especially sad: The '60s had no use for his mannered vitriol, reducing him to his most hateful tendencies (``Why should we keep inferior beings in the world?'' he told a reporter, asked for his views on the death penalty). Seems too often to scavenge for any stories remotely scandalous or naughty—but for all that, sharp and credible. Serious scholarship also serves here as an act of cultural restitution for a gay hero. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80937-0

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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