Readers can make up their own minds with the help of this evenhanded portrait.




Carefully considered, well-balanced biography of the controversial Japanese artist who created a stir in modernist Paris and was later vilified for his pro-fascist war paintings.

On the one hand, Foujita Tsuguharu (1886–1968) had fabulous success as a painter of cats and nudes in France from the early 1900s until World War II; on the other, he zealously led the group of artists hired by Japan’s war ministry in the late ’30s to sell Japanese aggression into China and beyond. Birnbaum (Modern Girls, Shining Stars, the Skies of Tokyo, 1999) clearly prefers to emphasize the first half of Foujita’s life: The son of a high-ranking military doctor in Tokyo, he learned Western-style painting in art school and, like many of his peers, yearned to escape “from the traditional Japanese terrors of earthquakes, thunder, fire, and fathers.” He immigrated to Paris in 1913, mixing freely with a bohemian crowd that included Bonnard and Modigliani with the help of some exotic, self-sewn Greek costumes and a series of useful French lady friends who didn’t know or didn’t care about his wife back in Japan. (The author admits she often finds the women in Foujita’s life more compelling than her subject.) Second wife Fernande Barrey helped secure his first show, and wealthy customers were quite taken by his unique line (gleaned from the ukiyo-e tradition) and incomparable white paint. Foujita’s eventual return to Japanese ways complicated his reputation. He exhorted Japanese artists to resist Western imitation and be true to their culture, yet was castigated by his compatriots as an insincere opportunist. By the late ’30s, married to the Japanese Kimiyo, he “transformed himself into an earnest representative of the state just as easily as he had changed coffee shops.” Birnbaum offers fascinating testimony by those who knew Foujita, both fans and adversaries, and she sifts through the evidence to depict a conflicted artist proud of Japanese culture and stung by Western racism who ended up mistrusted by all sides.

Readers can make up their own minds with the help of this evenhanded portrait.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-571-21179-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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