A hit-or-miss, coffee-table grab bag of biography, theorizing, and vibrant images that evoke the glamour and pathos of the...

READ REVIEW

BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT

THE HONEYMOON SUMMER OF SCOTT AND ZELDA

The exuberant, drunken newlywed days of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, hold a clue to the true origins of his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, according to this debut illustrated literary/historical study.

Fitzgerald’s celebrated tale of thwarted love among Jazz Age millionaires has long been thought to have been based on the wealthy New York resort town of Great Neck, Long Island, where Scott and Zelda lived from 1922 to ’24. Webb and Robert Steven Williams, defending a theory put forward by journalist Barbara Probst Solomon, made a documentary arguing that the novel was actually inspired by people and places in Westport, Connecticut, where the couple lived for five months in the summer and fall of 1920. Much of this lavish book consists of Webb’s evidence for replacing Great Neck with Westport, an affluent magnet for writers and artists, as the incubator of Fitzgerald’s imagination. Webb identifies Frederick E. Lewis, a handsome plutocrat who gave crazy parties at his Westport estate—Houdini came to one shindig and performed an underwater escape—as a likely model for Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. Right across the water was another manse that fits the description of Gatsby paramour Daisy Buchanan’s abode, complete with a green light on a big dock similar to the one the writer used as a metaphor for the tragic will-o’-the-wisp of the American dream. Drawing on Fitzgerald’s novels, letter, and diaries, along with period newspaper articles, large maps, and aerial photographs, Webb makes a genial, meandering case for Westport as Gatsbyville. Along the way, he digs up details of Lewis and his cars, yachts, and airplanes; delves into other colorful locals; and recounts his and Williams’ wavering progress at winning over scholars. Fitzgerald fanatics should find this information intriguing. More absorbing for casual readers is Webb’s portrait of Fitzgerald and Zelda’s marriage. Young, good-looking, and fashionable—Fitzgerald’s hit debut novel, This Side of Paradise, had just made them famous—they were the celebrity embodiments of the Roaring ’20s. At Westport, they drank hard—Fitzgerald’s “daily intake could top” a quart of gin and 30 beers—and partied harder, with Zelda notorious for her sloshed witticisms and whimsical arsons. Webb traces this trajectory through its inevitable decline into fights; money pressures; infidelity; literary disappointments and mutual recriminations; Fitzgerald’s plunge into lethal alcoholism; and Zelda’s descent into schizophrenia. Readers are reminded that the real-life Gatsby was Fitzgerald himself, pursuing the flapper wild child who always slipped his grasp. Webb’s sketch of their saga is workmanlike and lucid. Though disorganized, with digressions and repetitions, the account has some nice literary turns. (“I became so immersed in the world of the Fitzgerald parties, the hedonism of the Roaring Twenties, and reading about the oceans of gin Scott Fitzgerald imbibed, that at one point I thought I actually smelled gin in the room.”) There is much poignancy in the photos of Fitzgerald and Zelda in Westport, lounging on the lawn or the beach, relaxed and eager for the future, enjoying a season of happiness before it all went to hell.

A hit-or-miss, coffee-table grab bag of biography, theorizing, and vibrant images that evoke the glamour and pathos of the Fitzgerald marriage.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63226-097-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Prospecta Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

Did you like this book?

more