LETTERS TO DINAH

A successful anesthesiologist commits to writing a letter every day to his best and longest friend after learning that she had been recovering from brain surgery.

In his brief introduction to this epistolary collection, Boggs explains his project as an attempt to stimulate his friend’s brain by amusing her with “stories, some funny, some bittersweet, about what the years had done to me since we had spent all of our days together from elementary through high school.” Peppered with poems, illustrations and quotes from people like Oscar Wilde and Rodney Dangerfield, every letter ranges between two and five pages and is generally a thoughtful, personal exploration of Boggs’ present goings-on or whatever topic happens to be on his mind. In letters dated between mid-March to early May 2009, Boggs recounts personal anecdotes and intimate memories about his childhood in Albuquerque, medical school in Chicago, trips to Istanbul and Mexico City and, among other places, working temporarily in Greenville, Miss., from where he wrote a number of the letters. But mostly he writes about small-town life in Gaffney, S.C., where he and his family lived for 20 years, recounting the mayor, whom everyone called "Chicken Jolly," and the various men who have shamelessly hit on his wife. Each letter functions as an almost-essay, a highly personal exercise in memory and creativity, but collectively form something more akin to a memoir, in which he exposes his passion for Latino dance music and ’70s rock album cover art, the history of vehicles he’s owned, the stories of old girlfriends, his Buddhist-leaning protestant faith and the surprising ease of sending his second daughter off to school after the difficulty of sending his first. At times strikingly insightful and often quite witty, Boggs writes with impressive consistency, sometimes openly battling writers’ block and winning every time. Most readers will find Boggs’ resulting meandering to be enjoyable, while others will likely want more structure or depth from his musings, such as his criticism of the Google era, where he fails to go beyond lamenting that “there is something wonderful about the open-endedness of not knowing everything.” Rather than offering insight into the makings of an intimate friendship, Boggs emphasizes the results of his friendship with Dinah, one that serves as a platform for illuminating nostalgia, nonromantic love and storytelling. A sincere, original tribute to the art of letter writing, small-town living and friendship.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463442873

Page Count: 212

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

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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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