Readers shouldn’t be blamed for feeling misled and slightly cheated by a book marketed as a Spalding Gray title, when only a...

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LIFE INTERRUPTED

THE UNFINISHED MONOLOGUE

The late monologist's last work, heavily reliant on eulogies delivered by friends and family at two memorial services conducted after his 2004 suicide.

“Unfinished” may be the key word to describe both Gray's life and this book. Gray committed suicide at age 62 by leaping off the Staten Island Ferry into frigid New York Harbor. But that was just the last of many suicide attempts after a terrible car accident in Ireland in June 2001 left his body and spirit broken. In the title 40-page essay, Gray recounts with typical mordancy the accident and his subsequent hospitalizations in both Ireland and New York. The volume also includes a 10-page essay written on the tenth anniversary of his first meeting his wife, Kathy Russo. The majority of the book consists of recollections and tributes delivered at two separate memorial services—one at Lincoln Center, the other in his hometown of Sag Harbor, N.Y. Those paying tribute included his widow, his older brother, Rockwell Gray and fellow performers Eric Bogosian, Laurie Anderson and Eric Stoltz. Some of those are moving and revelatory. Others are less so, at times bordering on the platitudinous. Particularly touching are the recollections of Gray’s teenaged stepdaughter Marissa, describing her struggle to live with the suicidal, broken man her father became after the car accident. Another comes from fellow author Roger Rosenblatt, who noted of Gray: “No one ever could be so sublimely miserable.” The portrait of Gray that emerges is one of an adventurous, open-hearted, troubled soul who spent his life searching for “the perfect moment.” This, he apparently never found. But this book makes us miss his easy-going wit, already preserved in previous personal essays like “Swimming to Cambodia.”

Readers shouldn’t be blamed for feeling misled and slightly cheated by a book marketed as a Spalding Gray title, when only a fraction consists of his own words.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4861-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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