An uneven, often heart-wrenching attempt at resolving a personal struggle through art but also a sobering consideration of...

ARS BOTANICA

An unusual narrative of loss that becomes both a meditation on the Earth and a benediction for one who won't be around to enjoy it.

Taranto's first book is a poetic memoir steeped in beginnings and endings. The narrative is composed of a series of letters to an unborn child, whom the author addresses as Catalpa, interspersed with illustrated botanical definitions, poems, observations, song lyrics, and bursts of dialogue. This assorted correspondence with a lost child is primarily an explanation (and perhaps an apology) of how the child’s conception began but was ultimately terminated. Taranto writes of how he and his girlfriend met, each helping the other work through their troubles. She loved him despite his alopecia, a medical condition that left him hairless; he stuck by her following a near-fatal bicycle accident that not only broke several bones, but, during the hospital visit, led to the realization that she was pregnant. Taranto memorializes a difficult period in his life, made all the more painful because the abortion was not inevitable. The basic reason was that the couple didn’t really know each other that well, an explanation that seemed to suit her more than him. The book is not an anti-abortion tract; Taranto did not interfere with her decision and offered solace and support. But by its very nature, the story is haunted by lost possibilities. At one point, the author utters a prayer that God take him instead of the baby: "Let me be a father only in memory if she can be a mother in this life. Amen." The prayer went unanswered; the closest Taranto would get to fully realizing the fatherhood of Catalpa is through an act of memory and imagination, for which this one-way epistolary emotional scrapbook will have to suffice.

An uneven, often heart-wrenching attempt at resolving a personal struggle through art but also a sobering consideration of how things happen—or don’t.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940430-98-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Curbside Splendor

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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