A spirited biography of a complicated, combative, self-aggrandizing, and tormented man.

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MONEY, MURDER, AND DOMINICK DUNNE

A LIFE IN SEVERAL ACTS

The gossip-filled, star-studded life of a writer who thrived on scandal.

Journalist, novelist, and TV and film producer Dominick Dunne (1925-2009) had two favorite pursuits: gossip—the more salacious the better—and star-watching. Sharing his subject’s fascination for celebrities behaving badly, TheWrap lead theater critic Hofler (Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange: How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, 2014, etc.) proves to be an apt and entertaining chronicler of Dunne’s eventful, turbulent, and often sorrowful life. As a child, Dunne was belittled by his father, who called him a sissy, regularly whipped him, and incited his fear that he really was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. “I never felt I belonged anywhere, even in my own family,” Dunne admitted later. Hofler highlights Dunne’s difficult relationship with his younger brother, writer John Gregory Dunne, husband of Joan Didion, from whom Dominick was estranged for many years. But Dunne’s family interests Hofler less than his cavorting with celebrities. On the set of Ash Wednesday (1973), which Dunne produced, Elizabeth Taylor was demanding and roaring drunk. She began with bloody marys in the morning (a 16-ounce glass of vodka with a splash of tomato juice) followed by wine at lunch and Jack Daniels all afternoon. At one party (the book is filled with them), the sexually insatiable Rudolf Nureyev sequestered himself in a cottage “and quickly inspired two dozen men to offer him their bodies.” A closeted homosexual, Dunne married, had two sons, and tried, unsuccessfully, to play the family man until his wife divorced him. One son violently resented him for many years; the other, more charitably, realized that his father’s “big mouth, getting hammered and telling stories out of school” ensured his popularity. Dunne’s reputation as a journalist soared when he covered sensational murder trials for Vanity Fair, including O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bülow, Phil Spector, Michael Skakel, and, not least, the man accused of murdering Dunne’s daughter.

A spirited biography of a complicated, combative, self-aggrandizing, and tormented man.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-299-31150-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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

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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

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