A valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood, and America’s magazine culture of the...

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Such Mad Fun

AMBITION AND GLAMOUR IN HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE

A biography of Jane Hall, a writer for magazines and movies, traces the complicated, warring pressures of talent and the feminine mystique.

Cutler (The Laughing Desert, 2012, etc.), a historian, tells the story of her mother’s life. Born in an Arizona mining town in 1915, Hall had published poems, short stories, articles, and more by the time she was 15. After her parents died, Hall and her brother moved east in 1930 to live with her aunt and uncle, part of Manhattan’s privileged elite. In 1933, Hearst’s New York American called her “one of the season’s most ‘prominent debutantes.’ ” Hall began selling stories and moved to Hollywood in 1937, where her colleagues included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, and Anita Loos. Hall’s hard work and gift for dialogue earned her a good reputation; she worked on a half-dozen films, such as These Glamour Girls (1939). Cosmopolitan published that movie as a novel and featured her on the cover, writing that Hall “would rather be considered a glamour girl than a successful writer,” adding “She is both”—but not for much longer. In 1940, she married Robert Frye Cutler, a theatrical producer. They had Robin in 1944. Hall soon lost momentum as a writer; her last penciled diary comment, dated 1951, reads: “I haven’t written anything for years….I feel peaceful, quite resigned, and also, much of the time, quite dead.” Her marriage faltered, especially after her husband became an invalid, but she found some happiness in a warm, supportive friendship with a married man. She died in 1987. In this well-researched account, with full scholarly apparatus, the author thoughtfully examines the allure and trap of glamour. In this, Hall’s story mirrors those of many female professionals even today, who face immense pressures to maintain a certain look. Hall’s brushes with Hollywood and literary celebrities make great reading. Fitzgerald gave her an inscribed copy of Tender Is the Night (“the book may have been his warning to Jane about the consequences of marrying the wrong person, and the seductive power of wealth, alcohol, and a world of superficiality and showiness”). This portrait of a more literary mass-market America offers much food for reflection on modern culture.

A valuable, absorbing contribution to the history of women, golden-age Hollywood, and America’s magazine culture of the 1930s and ’40s.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 328

Publisher: View Tree Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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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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