“Dangerous and dynamic,” Callow’s Wagner is a “musical genius,” but he “cannot bring comfort. Which is why people fight over...

READ REVIEW

BEING WAGNER

THE STORY OF THE MOST PROVOCATIVE COMPOSER WHO EVER LIVED

A brief life of the composer who “got under people’s skin.”

Actor, writer, and musician Callow (Orson Welles: One-Man Band, 2016, etc.) takes a break from his ongoing, multivolume biography of Welles to pen this compact and witty biography of the idiosyncratic German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Its genesis began in 2012 when Callow performed his one-man show, Inside Wagner’s Head, for the composer’s bicentenary. He now “aims to give a sense of what it was like to be near that demanding, tempestuous, haughty, playful, prodigiously productive figure.” The “lazy and willful” young Wagner was a “bit of a problem child” and a terrible student. A talented musician, at 17 he took on the “monumental task of making a piano transcription of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.” He would conduct the piece some 17 years later. At 28, he had written four operas, but he had no prospects nor money. He finally got some of his work produced, and he was appointed Royal Conductor in Dresden. Wagner felt The Flying Dutchman (“nobody understood it”) was his first piece of “real music” that he had written from his “unconscious mind.” Tannhäuser and Lohengrin “were the end of a road,” and he set out to write the artwork “of the future.” In 1850 he wrote a pamphlet, Judaism in Music. Callow argues that it shows him moving from his “casual anti-Semitism typical of the time into a fixed intellectual position…Germanness,” which made him Hitler’s favorite composer. He became more involved in a revolutionary politics and read Schopenhauer as he began work on Tristan and Isolde and The Ring of the Nibelung, which was performed in 1876, along with Parsifal in 1882, in the theater Wagner had built in Bayreuth, Germany.

“Dangerous and dynamic,” Callow’s Wagner is a “musical genius,” but he “cannot bring comfort. Which is why people fight over him.” An infectiously readable biography.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-43618-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more