Ably captures the antic spirit of the New Yorker’s first heyday.

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CAST OF CHARACTERS

WOLCOTT GIBBS, E.B. WHITE, JAMES THURBER, AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE NEW YORKER

A fresh view of the much-chronicled magazine, focused on the three writers/editors who, with founder Harold Ross, shaped its sophisticated stance in the years between the world wars.

“Elegant arrogance” is how The Week magazine founding editor Vinciguerra (editor: Backward Ran the Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker, 2011, etc.) aptly describes the magazine’s rigorous distaste for what editor-in-chief Ross called “bunk.” Yet the author follows his generally positive assessment of Ross and company’s merciless skewering of sloppy writing and thinking with a quote from humorist Frank Sullivan warning that this was “the attitude of a couple of callow sub-editors from the Harvard Lampoon.” This book is admiring without airbrushing the magazine’s limitations and eccentricities. Wolcott Gibbs, feared drama critic and peerless parodist, was a depressive misanthrope who seemed rarely to have a happy moment. James Thurber, whose editing gave “Talk of the Town” its crisp, smart tone, was a misogynist far nastier than his cartoons chronicling the war between the sexes. E.B. White, who dominated the “Comment” section with his urbane yet down-to-earth pieces, was the least neurotic (and least alcoholic) of the triumvirate, but he was devoted to Gibbs and Thurber and vice versa. With the micromanaging Ross looking over their shoulders, they gave the magazine its voice and its panache, nicely conveyed by Vinciguerra in judicious excerpts from emblematic articles and juicy anecdotes involving many talented, turbulent contributors. The advent of World War II began to transform the New Yorker into a less lighthearted periodical, more consistently devoted to serious long-form journalism. Ross’ death in 1950, its 25th anniversary year, marked the end of an era; by the time of Gibbs’ demise in 1958 from a combination of booze and pills, he, Thurber, and White were making only occasional appearances in the magazine. It would thrive under William Shawn but as a very different animal.

Ably captures the antic spirit of the New Yorker’s first heyday.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0393240030

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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