An insightful, intelligent examination of grace, which often “seems to elude fixed meaning."

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THE ART OF GRACE

ON MOVING WELL THROUGH LIFE

Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post dance critic Kaufman reflects on the meaning of grace in modern society.

Grace is as multidimensional as it is an ancient and inherent part of humanity that stretches beyond the Greeks to our common primordial past. In this delightfully readable book, Kaufman studies the nature of grace and offers both an appreciation of it as well as a gentle exhortation to readers to cultivate it in themselves and the world around them. Her model for human grace is actor Cary Grant, who embodied liquid smoothness not only in his movements, but also in his personal interactions, especially those on screen. Others—such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and even Johnny Carson—all had, to varying degrees, the kind of self-control and self-deprecating elegance that Grant possessed. But with the rise of consumer culture in the 1950s and ’60s and its glorification of technology came the “culture of coarseness.” Manners and even physical grace became unnecessary encumbrances that took too much effort to develop and limited (or even prevented) true self-expression. Narcissism and “grabbing and taking” became the credo of a new generation that largely disregarded the concern for others that Kaufman believes is at the heart of grace. While individuals no longer give grace the importance it once had, the author points out that it still continues to exercise a powerful hold on the human imagination. People still marvel at the breathtaking fluidity of athletes like tennis pro Roger Federer, whose movements on the court have been called “artistic” and “miraculous.” Human beings, Kaufman argues, are hard-wired to appreciate grace, especially in movement. Fascinating throughout, this book not only serves as a reminder of the crude gracelessness into which modern society has descended. It also offers hope that we can reform our current personal and social habits with an eye toward more civilized, harmonious living.

An insightful, intelligent examination of grace, which often “seems to elude fixed meaning."

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24395-6

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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

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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