ARCHIBALD MACLEISH

AN AMERICAN LIFE

Poet, lawyer, Librarian of Congress, statesman, and professor, MacLeish (1892-1982) revived the Homeric ideal of a poet as ``a man in the world.'' In this authorized and idealized biography, his only flaws are a demanding nature, many discreet infidelities, and lack of interest in his children. Fortunately, Donaldson (English/William and Mary College) is as successful in celebrating MacLeish's strengths as he has been in tracing the demons that destroyed Cheever (John Cheever, 1988), Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. Born into a wealthy Illinois family, MacLeish attended Yale and Harvard Law, married his childhood sweetheart, and moved to Paris, where he joined the circle around Joyce and Hemingway (his lifelong friend) and, sustained by family resources, devoted himself to poetry. Returning to N.Y.C., he spent the 30's editing and writing for Fortune magazine while producing radio and stage plays (starring the young Orson Welles) that expressed his liberal politics. In the 40's, MacLeish served as the first Librarian of Congress, then as Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, and, after helping to write the preamble to the UN Charter, worked for UNESCO. Even after accepting a Harvard professorship in 1946, he remained a mediator between the worlds of art and of public life, urging the release of Ezra Pound from his mental asylum and publishing, the day after the first moon landing, a celebratory poem on the front page of The New York Times. MacLeish's last years were spent lecturing, traveling, gathering prizes, entertaining friends (including Richard Burton and Liz Taylor), and writing dramas, as well as private but unrevealing poems about old age, his various affairs, and the bliss he found in his marriage. For such a long and spectacular life, this is a spare and unpretentious biography, like MacLeish's verse. Donaldson is informed, respectful, and comfortable with the many different roles his subject played. He tastefully draws on unpublished verse to illuminate the shadows—but mostly, like MacLeish himself, stays in the light. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-395-49326-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

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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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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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