Schultz (Psychology/Pacific Univ.; editor: Handbook of Psychobiography, 2005) plumbs the machinations behind Truman Capote’s literary self-sabotage.

In this slim, potent second installment in the publisher’s Inner Lives series, the author eschews the delivery of straightforward biographical facts. Rather, he astutely dissects the inspirations behind Capote’s last, unfinished roman à clef, Answered Prayers, a scorching, sensationalistic tell-all about his “filthy rich” friends, whom he dubbed “swans.” Schultz considers these scathing chapters (several were published in Esquire magazine in 1975–6) as Capote’s final self-defining moments, in which he deliberately “bit down hard on the smooth, socialite hands that fed him.” Curiously, the author acknowledges that the whereabouts of the complete manuscript has become the stuff of legend, if Capote did indeed finish it at all. But “why tattle on trillionaires?” Schultz ponders, as he mines the conception and execution of the author’s literary accomplishments: the ill-fated Answered Prayers, the “homosexual fantasia” of his debut Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and his controversial blockbuster masterpiece of American crime, In Cold Blood. He questions why such a hardworking, respected writer would denigrate and systematically betray the privileged circles with which he’d become so ingrained. Was it Capote’s “insecurely attached” childhood, the effects of personal deterioration brought on by a dependence on drugs and alcohol, or had these social luminaries truly slighted him? In contemplating Capote’s many behavioral motivations, Schultz’s lucid academic discourse never shames the author for penning such “pseudonym-free, scorching dismissals” that skewered folks like Jackie and Joe Kennedy, Cole Porter and Ann Woodward, but instead paints the author with compassion as a troubled literary burnout bent on vengeance, lashing out at whomever came closest to him. A fascinating, erudite deliberation.


Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-975204-1

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Outstanding in every respect.



When the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a 1963 rape case, Justice Arthur Goldberg published an unusual dissent questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. From this small beginning, Mandery (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Q: A Novel, 2011, etc.) skillfully traces the building momentum within the country and the court to question the legality of a punishment the Founding Fathers took for granted.

Indeed, by 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the court struck down death penalty statutes so similar to those in 40 other states that executions nationwide came to a halt. Disagreement among Furman’s 5-4 majority—was the death penalty “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, or was its arbitrary application a violation under the 14th?—and a forceful dissent hinted at a blueprint for states to rewrite their capital-sentencing schemes. By 1976, 35 had done so. In Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the court approved the revised statutes, opening the door to 1,300 state-sponsored executions since. Relying on interviews with law clerks and attorneys, information from economists, criminologists and social scientists, arguments from political and legal scholars, a thorough knowledge of all applicable cases and sure-handed storytelling, Mandery focuses on the strategies of the Legal Defense Fund, the remarkable attorneys who led the charge for abolition, to cover virtually every dimension of the capital punishment debate. The author is especially strong on the individual backgrounds, personalities and judicial philosophies of the justices, the shifting alliances among them and the frustrating contingencies upon which momentous decisions sometimes turn. Even those weary of this topic will be riveted by his insider information about towering figures, lawyers and judges.

Outstanding in every respect.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-23958-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Shallow and woefully clichéd.



Hackneyed reflections from an Australian journalist who spent about a year-and-a-half in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma).

Although he was there in 2003–04 to train reporters for the rigidly censored English-language newspaper, The Myanmar Times, Olszewski, former editor of Australian Playboy and leader of the Australian Marijuana Party, has chosen to write about Myanmar from a nonpolitical perspective. His memoir concentrates on “ ‘ordinary’ people” and “the ‘Chestertonian’ trivialities of life” (the author’s arch use of quotation marks is just one of his irritating traits). In a country ruled by a brutally repressive military regime, Olszewski led a privileged expatriate existence: attending parties and opening nights of cultural events, gossiping in cafes and bars, bemoaning the lack of electricity and hot water, learning to chew betel nut, drinking hash beer and snake wine, eyeing the passing women. His worst experience was undergoing surgery for gallstones in a Yangon hospital that had no painkillers containing opiates. The author describes local festivals and Buddhist ceremonies; extols the beauty and demeanor of Asian women, whom he clearly admires; and rants against other expats, whom he sees as arrogant and ignorant. As Olszewski tells it, Myanmar is colorful and romantic, and its people—who just happen to be mostly very poor and singularly repressed—are delightful, charming and filled with a joyous zest for life.

Shallow and woefully clichéd.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-74114-507-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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