An overdue comprehensive biography of a giant of mid-20th-century American politics.

ON HIS OWN TERMS

A LIFE OF NELSON ROCKEFELLER

Presidential library director and C-SPAN in-house historian Smith (The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, 1997, etc.) delivers a monumental biography of the charismatic vice president and four-term governor of New York.

Grandson and namesake of the two most hated men in Progressive-era America, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (1908-1979) was determined "to succeed despite his name” and to "polish the Rockefeller legacy like fine silver" through public service and the socially responsible use of the immense wealth and influence at his disposal. Rockefeller was the last of the titans of progressive Republicanism. "He had long believed that his country, like his family, must justify its riches through good works and the sharing of wealth,” writes Smith. He worked comfortably in appointed positions in Republican and Democratic administrations but ultimately "hungered for the legitimacy uniquely bestowed by the ballot box." As governor of New York, Rockefeller advanced measures combating discrimination in various forms and engaged in a building boom, much of it financed through constitutionally dodgy bonding schemes. In national politics, however, Rockefeller ultimately proved too liberal for the Republicans, the pillar of the "eastern establishment" at a time when the party was becoming more stridently conservative. In person, Rockefeller was a force of nature—optimistic, impatient, hard-charging and strikingly virile, engaging in sex with subordinates in a way that would never be hidden or tolerated today. Ironically, his presidential hopes were scotched by his very public divorce and remarriage, along with a considerable measure of tactical ineptitude. Rockefeller's enormously full life as a diplomat, bureaucrat, politician, businessman, and avid collector and proponent of modern art justifies the prodigious scale of this intensively researched work, presented in sturdy, confident prose with the occasional well-placed barb. The author maintains a dignified objectivity throughout, recounting events with penetrating perceptivity but refraining from intrusive editorial comment or analysis.

An overdue comprehensive biography of a giant of mid-20th-century American politics.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0375505805

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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