Marvelously written, and imbued with scholarly thinking on a forgotten tradition of Jewish-Islamic accord.

THE ORIENTALIST

SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF A STRANGE AND DANGEROUS LIFE

The intriguing search for the true identity of a 1930s cult novelist (published here, by Random, in 1971) whose obscure working life was based entirely on escapist subterfuge.

Readers who wonder why they would want to follow Reiss through a convoluted trek in the footsteps of one Kurban Said (also writing as Essad Bey), author of the still celebrated 1937 romance (published here, by Random, in 1971) entitled Ali and Nino—star-crossed lovers embracing across the gulf between Islam and Christianity—need only take a step or two into the setup. After an introductory blind alley in which a German baroness is falsely identified to Reiss as the real author of Said’s works, he gives us turn-of-the century Baku on the Caspian Sea, where petroleum leaks out of the ground in profusion and Russia’s soon-to-be oil millionaires are arriving daily along with the same camel caravans that have passed this way for a thousand years. There, Reiss’s account of the real Kurban Said begins with the 1905 birth of one Lev Nussimbaum to the Jewish oil Minister of Baku and his wife, a woman from an obscure Russian village who harbors Revolutionary tendencies. Comes the Revolution, the comfortable haut capitaliste milieu of Baku implodes around the teenaged Nussimbaum and, as usual, when things turned bad for Russians they turned worse for Jews. Skipping forward, one finds Lev ensconced in a seething Germany, hobnobbing with nascent Nazis as a self-vested Muslim prince, author, and Orientalist—one steeped in the mysteries and cultures of Asia Minor, the Levant, etc.—known as Kurban Said. Further, his pose incorporates denial of his mother’s Jewishness, making her a Russian noblewoman (false) who sold her diamonds to finance Stalin’s—then Josef Dugashvili—rise to power (probably true) and committed suicide by drinking acid. Nussimbaum eventually married an heiress who never knew his real identity; he died tragically in Mussolini’s Italy.

Marvelously written, and imbued with scholarly thinking on a forgotten tradition of Jewish-Islamic accord.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6265-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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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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