A low-key, pleasing account of finding home—the place, “perhaps, where I will end my days”—by an accomplished storyteller.

BIRD CLOUD

A MEMOIR

Novelist Proulx (Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3, 2008, etc.), the laureate of the Wyoming outback and the Canadian shore, returns to familiar haunts—this time in real life.

French Canada figures as a point of origin in the author’s lightly written memoir, in which a great-grandfather speaks: “I know I have feefteen child leeveing, how many more in Minnesota, Canada, y’odder place, O do not know.” So do Rhode Island and a few other points on Proulx’s personal map. Most of the book, however, concerns the section of land along the North Platte River that came into her possession a few years ago, and where she has since made her home. The “cow-speckled” land, by her description, is rugged, marked by gullies, dust and a dramatic cliff that marks a geological fault—good cause for a meditation on the Rio Grand Rift, a massive fault system that “has made not only the Rio Grande River gorge near Taos but some of the West’s most beautiful valleys.” Proulx also finds resemblances to contemplate between her eponymous ranch and Uluru, or Ayers Rock, the great Australian monolith that seems weirdly bathed in interior light. Her depictions of the Wyoming landscape in all its moods are in keeping with the best of the Western nature-writing tradition, full of celebration and evocation. But oddly, the narrative contains fewer reveries about the land than one might expect, and a lot of what might be considered helpful hints for would-be bookish homesteaders, ranging from the proper design of an office (with lots of surfaces for laying out maps and piling up paper) and bookcases (to hold thousands of books) to how to relax in a Japanese soak tub (“The long soak was wonderful,” Proulx writes, “but an hour later, I discovered a terrible flood in the library”).

A low-key, pleasing account of finding home—the place, “perhaps, where I will end my days”—by an accomplished storyteller.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8880-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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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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