Scholars will deplore the dearth of documentation, but general readers will delight in this tale of a randy rapscallion who...

A VOYAGE ROUND JOHN MORTIMER

THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE CREATOR OF RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY

An authorized biography of the peripatetic, priapic and enormously prolific octogenarian who still rises at dawn to the pages of blank foolscap he fills with astonishing speed and craft.

British journalist Grove (Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger, 1999, etc.) gained Mortimer’s permission to interview him continually, to peruse his papers and to interview his intimates. She was there to celebrate with him when he learned in 2004 that he had a son, born to actress Wendy Craig in 1961. No mere book can contain the titanic Sir John. His professional life seems preternaturally productive: myriad pieces of journalism and scripts for theater, TV, cinema and radio as well as novels. (Grove summarizes some of the fiction, though she says oddly little about the hugely successful Rumpole series.) Oh, and until 1983 he appeared regularly in court to argue legal cases, favoring issues of free speech and often representing those charged with pornography. The list of his writings runs to five pages (only one less than the extremely skimpy endnotes). His sex life has been nearly as prodigious. (He even made a move—sort of—on his biographer.) A serial adulterer, Mortimer wed twice. First wife Penelope was a gifted novelist in her own right, best known for The Pumpkin Eater (1962). They were divorced in 1971, and four months later he married the much younger Penny, who has remained to help him through the indignities of his 80s, making possible much of his continuing creative life. Grove explores Mortimer’s childhood as the son of a noted legal scholar (subject of his play A Voyage Round My Father), education at Harrow and Oxford (where he had sexual attractions to other lads), beginnings as a writer and transformation into rumpled Sir John, an icon in contemporary English culture.

Scholars will deplore the dearth of documentation, but general readers will delight in this tale of a randy rapscallion who found time between dalliances to create some enduringly popular works of fiction and drama.

Pub Date: June 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01880-2

Page Count: 542

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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