Flawed in structure but beautifully written and completely captivating. (photos)

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RODINSKY'S ROOM

Fascinating tale of Jewish mystic-hermit David Rodinsky, whose London room is opened up after nearly 20 years, by artist Lichtenstein and with contributions by author Sinclair (Downriver, 1993).

The term quirky doesn't come close to describing this work, which blends Lichtenstein's autobiography, her biography of Rodinsky, a social history of London's Jewish immigrant neighborhood, and Sinclair's critical look at Lichtenstein's attempts to discover the truth about herself and Rodinsky. Lichtenstein begins the story with her attempts to discover what she can of her family's immigrant past in the London neighborhood of Spitalfields, and then is quickly engrossed by the story of David Rodinsky, who was legendary in his neighborhood for his seeming disappearance. Rodinsky's room was left exactly as he had last left it—a small garret above a synagogue, filled with notebooks in a number of languages, religious texts, and his personal effects. From this room, Lichtenstein's journey to discover what she can of this strange man spirals outward to encompass a cross section of London's Jewish community and takes her to Israel, a shtetl in Poland, and just about anyone who ever remembered Rodinsky. Lichtenstein's intensely personal writing is first-rate, and she quickly creates a stirring portrait of Rodinsky as a man who suddenly found himself alone in his room as London's Jewish community moved away from his surrounding neighborhood. Less interesting are the chapters by Sinclair, which are interspersed throughout the work and serve to distract from a story that is intrinsically one of Lichtenstein and Rodinsky. As Lichtenstein discovers more and more of Rodinsky, her mission becomes less to discover the man than to discover his place of burial and to put his soul to rest through telling his story and saying Kaddish over the grave.

Flawed in structure but beautifully written and completely captivating. (photos)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-86207-257-4

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Granta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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