Less groundbreaking than Paper Lion, but more perceptive and almost as entertaining.

A FEW SECONDS OF PANIC

A 5-FOOT-8, 170-POUND, 43-YEAR-OLD SPORTSWRITER PLAYS IN THE NFL

Channeling George Plimpton, a sportswriter dons pads and becomes the first journalist in more than 40 years to take the field alongside an NFL team.

Attempting a modern take on the classic Paper Lion could very easily have backfired on Wall Street Journal reporter Fatsis (Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, 2001, etc.). He wins readers over, however, with his upfront acknowledgement of Plimpton’s feats and his engagingly self-deprecating prose. Despite being an aging weekend warrior with two bad knees and no organized football experience, the author began contacting NFL teams, seeking to join one as a kicker during training camp so that he could live and experience each day as a player. After considerable effort, he finally hooked on with the Denver Broncos, one of the league’s model franchises. Fatsis quickly found that his cursory understanding of how to kick was no match for the place-kicking expertise of the Broncos’s Jason Elam. Even more engrossing than his quest for proficiency, however, is the author’s insight into the modern NFL locker room. It’s a world of haves and have-nots: Bonus babies and superstars are the only ones who enjoy even a modicum of job security; fringe players fight through devastating injuries they don’t disclose for fear of losing their ever-tentative jobs. While it’s no secret that big-time sports are replete with homophobia, relentless hazing and testosterone both natural and artificial, the players’ fragile psyches and management’s everyone-is-replaceable mentality may surprise and unnerve even hardcore fans. It’s those revelations, and the author’s humanizing treatment of his larger-than-life teammates, that keep interest high—not the anticlimactic chronicle of his attempt to kick in a preseason game.

Less groundbreaking than Paper Lion, but more perceptive and almost as entertaining.

Pub Date: July 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-178-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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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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