Although unlikely to share Merry’s very high opinion of McKinley, most readers of this intelligent biography will agree that...

PRESIDENT MCKINLEY

ARCHITECT OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY

A fresh biography of the short-lived presidency of William McKinley (1843-1901), “an unlikely figure to be presiding over the transformation of America.”

This is not the first attempt to rehabilitate McKinley, who served from 1897 until he was assassinated by an anarchist in September 1901, but former Congressional Quarterly CEO Merry (Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians, 2012, etc.) makes a persuasive case that he was not just an amiable Ohio governor, protégé of Cleveland businessman Mark Hanna, but a canny, ambitious statesman. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1877, he remained until 1891. There followed two terms as governor and an easy win for the 1896 Republican presidential nomination. Once elected, McKinley found himself involved in what might be called Operation Cuban Freedom (parallels with recent events are irresistible). Cubans were miserable and oppressed, and the American invasion was widely supported. Victory was easy, but given freedom, Cuba showed little gratitude. Merry clearly admires McKinley, arguing that, “though not a man of vision, he was a man of perception who saw clearly the major developments of his time.” Some ideas, such as reciprocal trade agreements, were ahead of his time. No apologist for big business, he was more liberal than his overrated predecessor, Grover Cleveland. The author maintains that McKinley, not his successor, Theodore Roosevelt, ushered America onto the world stage and jump-started the progressive movement. McKinley also showed excellent taste in appointments, which included Elihu Root, John Hay, George Cortelyou, Philander Knox, Charles Dawes, and William Howard Taft. Roosevelt became vice president in 1900 when he discouraged party leaders who opposed him. Merry believes McKinley was preparing to launch an aggressive trust-busting program when he was assassinated.

Although unlikely to share Merry’s very high opinion of McKinley, most readers of this intelligent biography will agree that he was an astute politician and strong leader.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2544-8

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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