Kaufmann’s own self-requiem says it all: “There was nothing left in him; he did not spare himself; he put everything he had...

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WALTER KAUFMANN

PHILOSOPHER, HUMANIST, HERETIC

Luminous biography of the noted philosopher and intellectual historian best known for his work on Friedrich Nietzsche.

Walter Kaufmann (1921-1980) died too young, but not before having written numerous books that shifted the landscape of the humanities. Corngold (Lambent Traces, 2004, etc.), a noted interpreter and translator of the work of Franz Kafka, takes on Kaufmann’s books one after the other, “mainly keeping to one side the foreknowledge of what he was still to write.” The most influential of them was his first, in which Kaufmann, a German Jew, rehabilitated the reputation of Nietzsche, badly marred through association with Nazism. His 1950 book Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist not only helped rescue Nietzsche from that guilty stain, but also spurred a postwar renaissance in studies of Nietzsche; no book in the time since, Corngold ventures, has appeared that has not in some way reckoned with Kaufmann’s. Corngold is not uncritical. He notes that Kaufmann’s own Nietzschean devotion to self-mastery colored his perception of Nietzsche’s “will to power” and in turn “sanitizes Nietzsche”; Kaufmann’s view may have been overly apolitical, but it also helps restore the idea of the Germany “that Jews dreamt of in their assimilationist craving, the dream of the haskalah.” Kaufmann would emerge as a powerful critic of religion (whence the heretic of the subtitle) and student of world literature and history, taking on the theologies and works of Luther, Plato, Milton, Aeschylus, and countless others while waging his own war “against decrepit ideas.” In that pursuit, no book went unread, and though Kaufmann was a man of action, this biography is one of ideas and the presupposition that readers are prepared to take on a big slice of intellectual history in considering them.

Kaufmann’s own self-requiem says it all: “There was nothing left in him; he did not spare himself; he put everything he had into his work, his life.” But he did not find time to reckon fully with his own legacy, and in that, Corngold provides a valuable service.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-16501-1

Page Count: 760

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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