WYSTAN AND CHESTER

A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF W.H. AUDEN AND CHESTER KALLMAN

A fond but not uncritical backward glance at one of this century's most important poets and his companion. Clark, who set sail as a young Oklahoman in 1951 for a blithely reckless expatriate existence in Europe, first came to know the English Auden and his once and future sweetheart, American-born Kallman, first on the Italian island of Ischia. They remained fast friends. The satisfaction of Clark's brief but eventful reminiscence is twofold: She captures the unsteady, even giddy rhythms typical of many close friendships; and she offers an unabashedly opinionated double portrait of her two inimitable sidekicks. Some indulgently self-conscious nattering does creep into the writing (``Had they been halcyon days?'' Clark asks at one point). And she may enjoy describing herself too much: ``I was still wearing cotton gloves and was overly ware of the attention I was causing.'' Yet she is generally a vivid writer and a quick study. She follows the sometimes tormented progress of Auden and Kallman's long intimacy. Loyal to both in her ferreting, she seems able to present each man in enough detail to sidestep or thwart the legends and stereotypes that have sprung from them or been imposed on them. Both emerge as magnetic figures, crisscrossed by idiosyncrasy as if by wrinkles. Maybe it is the impromptu charm of the author that most buoys her story, unmarked by literary criticism, and alive with quoted conversation. ``Wystan was fascinated by female anatomy and the whole process of birth,'' she reports. `' `You are so fortunate to have all your reproductive organs inside you' he said, `not these ridiculous things I find attached to me as an afterthought.' He and I had long and detailed gynecological discussions, but we forbore from having them at table after one night Chester screamed, `Mercy!' '' A sweet, smart, witty character sketch.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-231-10706-4

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more