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

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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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

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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