MARIA CALLAS

SACRED MONSTER

A personal friend of the celebrated opera singer offers a pedestrian but solid biography notable for extensive quotes from Callas’s own reflections on her life and career. The basic facts are well known. Galatopoulos (Italia Opera, not reviewed, etc.), a music critic and biographer who first met the soprano in 1947, maintains a respectful—indeed, rather dull—tone as he sketches the familiar tale: unhappy childhood in New York and Athens; pushed as a musical prodigy by her domineering mother; brilliant, controversial success in the1950s as a passionate singing actress unafraid to make harsh sounds if they served the cause of characterization; her liaison with Aristotle Onassis; increasing vocal problems that led to her retirement from the operatic stage in 1965; and sudden death, probably from heart failure, at the age of 53 in 1977. Taking a Maria’s-eye view, the author presents every cancellation as due to ill health or a hostile management’s unreasonable demands; the break-up of her marriage as the result of her husband’s money-grubbing (the affair with Onassis began later, she claimed); the famous feuds as media exaggerations (she even liked fellow diva Renata Tebaldi, at first). None of this is especially interesting or convincing, but the author’s obvious personal investment in Callas is justified by the marvelous material he elicited from her about her work. Lengthy quotations reveal the diva’s sharp intelligence, her reverence for opera’s history and traditions, her emotional engagement with each role, and her complete dedication to fulfilling the composer’s intentions. Galatopoulos’s enthusiastic descriptions of Callas’s greatest performances—in Norma, Medea, Tosca; as Violetta in La Traviata—make her genius live for those who never saw her. Neither the writing nor the thinking are sophisticated enough to make this a great biography, but to emphasize Callas’s revolutionary artistry over her private affairs makes for a refreshing change from lurid pieces of recent pop-psych speculation (e.g., Arianna Stassinopoulos’s Maria Callas, l981). (100 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85985-8

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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