A welcome addition to the Gonzo library and one of the best starting points for HST novices—at least until Douglas Brinkley...



McKeen (Journalism/Univ. of Florida; Highway 61: A Father-and-Son Journey Through the Middle of America, 2003) resurrects the Good Doctor with a solid treatment of his life and work.

Since Thompson’s suicide more than three years ago, there have been countless memorials and appraisals of his career, including longtime artistic collaborator Ralph Steadman’s meandering The Joke’s Over (2006). McKeen stays on task, maintaining a well-paced narrative as he works his way through Thompson’s life, the details of which are by now quite well-known: athletics-filled but troublemaking childhood in Louisville (“I look back on my youth with great fondness,” the author once wrote, “but I would not recommend it as a working model for others”); brief stint in the Air Force; frequent rejections of his first two novels, Prince Jellyfish and The Rum Diary (which was eventually published in 1998); long, up-and-down relationship with the editors at Playboy and Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone; redemptive success with Hell’s Angels (1966) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972); increasingly erratic behavior, embodied by his alter-ego, Raoul Duke, and spurred on by his relationship with Mexican-American activist and attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta; seclusion on his ranch in Woody Creek, Colo.; calculated suicide in 2005. Thompson’s unrivaled substance abuse and explosive personality were the stuff of legend, but McKeen, employing readable, lively prose, does a fine job excavating other aspects of his character, digging deeper than most of his previous biographers to reveal a vital component of Thompson’s genius: “Part of Hunter’s art was collecting the right people, putting them all together, and seeing what happened.” Carefully avoiding hagiography, however, the author gamely explores the darker side of Thompson’s nature as well. Throughout, Thompson’s slavish devotion to his search for the American Dream provides the narrative’s binding thread: “The Dream obsessed him…but what was it? Was it Horatio Alger, rags to riches, the idea that you could start with nothing and end up rolling naked in stacks of hundreds? Or was it a dream of freedom? Personal freedom…or the concept of freedom that the founders brought into the world?”

A welcome addition to the Gonzo library and one of the best starting points for HST novices—at least until Douglas Brinkley decides to publish his eagerly awaited version of events.

Pub Date: July 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06192-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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