Partly a biography of ``the most influential media baron of our time,'' more a critique of that baron's stewardship of the public interest, an ambitious assemblage that falls short of a strong narrative or full indictment. Newsday reporter Maier never received access to his little- known subject—S.I. ``Si'' Newhouse Jr., ruler of a chain of newspapers, of CondÇ Nast Publications (publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, among other magazines), and of the Random House book publishing empire—so his portrait is understandably sketchy. After tracing Newhouse's youthful unhappiness and professional meanderings, the author gets sidetracked with more interesting characters, such as Si's ``surrogate father,'' Alexander Liberman, longtime editorial director of CondÇ Nast. There, Newhouse blurred ``the distinction between editorial and advertising,'' Maier writes, sins later magnified at the reborn Vanity Fair and the newly acquired New Yorker. The narrative then turns to Si's friendship with the notorious Roy Cohn, who set in motion what seems to be Newhouse's most glaring ethical lapse: the Newhouse- owned Cleveland Plain Dealer succumbed to Mafia pressure to retract an investigative story on Teamster boss Jackie Presser. (Like most controversies in the book, this has been reported on in depth before.) Maier moves on to the complex tax maneuvering that saved oodles for Newhouse's Advance Publications, allowing him to acquire Random House in 1980. The author recounts how Newhouse's bottom- line mentality led to the controversial firings of veteran editors and sullied the company's reputation. Profiling editor Tina Brown (who agreed to interviews), he reveals that Si had planned to pull the plug on Brown's Vanity Fair until the famous Reagan cover turned the magazine's fortunes around. Si often drops out of the narrative when it veers into lengthy but not probing reports on the personalities and internal politics of Newhouse's empire, but Maier makes the worthy point that pundits have rarely examined the way ``the nation's largest private media company'' affects journalism and culture. In the public interest, surely. But will the public, outside the media world, be interested in this mediocre effort? (16 pages of photos, not seen) (First printing of 60,000)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11481-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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 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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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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