Again, as in Cruising Speed (1971), Buckley takes us day by day, sometimes hour by hour, through a week or so in his busy, busy life—in this case eight days from the fall of 1981. There is lots of National Review business, of course, including the consideration of an expensive lease renewal. ("I ponder the extraordinary hold on you that a property, and an area, can develop.") There are a couple of speeches to prepare and deliver, letters to answer, phone calls to parry. Buckley muses on his reasons for writing, for working hard: "Why do I do so much? I expect that the promptings issue from a subtle dialectical counterpoint. Of what? Well, the call of recta ratio, and the fear of boredom." (He then goes on, patronizingly, to explain what recta ratio means—and to consider the "appeal of generic Latin terms.") He reminisces—about a sailing trip with Ronald Reagan, Jr., about his prep school, about his brief CIA stint, about a column in which he mistakenly maligned Pat Boone. ("I was terribly grieved at the hurt I had done him," Buckley concludes, but his description of the incident is actually blithe, insensitive, and self-aggrandizing.) He tapes television's Firing Line, gets a phone call from "my old friend the commander-in-chief," sails with David Niven and publisher Sam Vaughan, heaps praise on assorted friends and family, plugs several of his books, goes to Mass, wrestles with a few current issues, carries on a number of little feuds. And some of this, perhaps, may engage those easily dazzled by name-droppings—or by little peeks into Life with the Buckleys. ("I completed my notes, and are the perfect chicken sandwich Gloria brought me, with a glass of cool white wine. Pat came in, en route to her lunch, and we discussed the weekend plans, and she told me now don't forget that my black tie and cummerbund were in the pocket of my tux, and I promised I'd remember, and walked down the stairs with her, saw her out, and dangled for a minute over the harpsichord.") But, while Buckley's self-congratulation can be marginally palatable when mixed with a story (as in Atlantic High or Airborne), here it's undiluted. So most readers will probably find this tedious at best, sleekly loathsome at worst—especially since, in contrast to the fairly stylish Cruising Speed, it's sloppily written (p. 169: "It was all great fun"; p. 171: "All this was great fun") and virtually without texture.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1983

ISBN: 0316114499

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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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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