This wonderful rendering of Boswell digs deep into his probing, enquiring life and the fast friends he made at every turn.

BOSWELL'S ENLIGHTENMENT

James Boswell (1740-1795) comes to life in Zaretsky’s (French History/Univ. of Houston; A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning, 2013) recounting of his European grand tour in the mid-18th-century.

Boswell’s search for the answers of the Enlightenment began in his Edinburgh school days. On a short holiday in southern Scotland, he began to keep a journal, a habit that scholars have benefited from ever since. Raised in the strict Calvinist religion, for a period he considered Catholicism, until his father threatened to disown him. He had the greatest minds of the time to help him search for answers: David Hume, Adam Smith, Knox, Hobbes and Francis Hutcheson. A year in London brought him to a chance meeting with Samuel Johnson, who became a lifelong friend in addition to Boswell’s biographical subject. Zaretsky follows Boswell’s travels through Europe as he honed his tactic of throwing himself at the Enlightenment thinkers he wished to meet. He became great friends with Rousseau and his nemesis, Voltaire. Perfecting the art of being easygoing and chatty, he picked the brains of the great minds of his time. The English exile John Wilkes and Corsican rebel general Pasquale Paoli showed him the meaning of freedom and changed his outlook on life. Boswell also suffered from lifelong depression—an affliction shared by Johnson—and wrote dozens of essays on the subject. Without deep, confusing discussion of philosophical issues, Zaretsky introduces the Enlightenment greats who taught and molded Boswell. The vast store of knowledge our traveler absorbed in so few years makes for truly enlightening reading. “Boswell matters not because his mind was as original or creative as the men and women he pursued,” writes the author, “but because his struggle to make sense of his life…appeals to our own needs and sensibilities.”

This wonderful rendering of Boswell digs deep into his probing, enquiring life and the fast friends he made at every turn.

Pub Date: March 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-674-36823-1

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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