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Daring: My Passages: A Memoir Hardcover – September 2, 2014
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“[R]emarkable ... a fascinating narrative with Gail’s voice, breathless and intense, as she tries to make sense of everything she’s done—her work, her travels, her wild giddy adventures, her sometimes intensely painful experiences.” (Vanity Fair)
“Sheehy gives readers a distinct glimpse into some of the most important events of the last 40 years, and, for many, this will be enough reason to read on. Her perspective on the women’s movement and the decline of print journalism is especially compelling.” (Library Journal)
“Here, [Sheehy] looks back on her remarkable life with unflinching candor.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)
“Daring is an inspiring portrait of a resilient woman who fought hard to live an authentic life, and won.” (More.com)
“Its familiarity captivates. ...The book is a thorough remembrance of [Sheehy’s] life . . . her entire life. And she’s had a big life.” (East Hampton Star)
“The love story of two superstars in the final great moment of American magazine journalism.” (Tom Wolfe, journalist & bestselling author)
“Gail Sheehy’s work always combines the care of a scholar and the sensibility of a novelist. Her memoir is a thrilling read.” (Erica Jong, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fear of Flying)
“Daring by Gail Sheehy is the anecdotal life of a pioneering and hardworking journalist who plunges into everything with energy and curiosity. After a lifetime of writing about other people, she takes on the most difficult assignment - herself. It’s an irresistible read.” (Gloria Steinem)
“Gail Sheehy says that what she cares about most is honesty, and this remarkable memoir is proof. ...I dare you to put it down. I couldn’t.” (Meredith Vieira, journalist and news correspondant)
“Gail takes us behind the scenes of New York magazine as only one who was there could do.” (Milton Glaser, cofounder of New York magazine)
From the Back Cover
The author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a captivating memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s "girl" journalist to fearless bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos—from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death. Daring to blaze a trail in a "man's world," Gail Sheehy became one of the premier practitioners of New Journalism at the fledgling New York magazine, along with such stellar writers as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, and Jimmy Breslin. Sheehy dared to walk New York City's streets with hookers and pimps to expose violent prostitution; to march with civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland as British soldiers opened fire; to seek out Egypt's president Anwar Sadat when he was targeted for assassination after making peace with Israel; and to break the glass ceiling in a media world fueled by testosterone, competition, and grit.
Daring: My Passages is also the beguiling love story of Sheehy's tempestuous romance with Clay Felker, the charismatic creator of New York magazine and the mentor who inspired her to become a fearless journalist who won renown for her penetrating character portraits of world leaders, including Hillary Clinton, both Presidents Bush, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, among others.
Sheehy reflects on desire, ambition, and wanting it all—career, love, children, friends, social significance—and coming to terms with waiting until midlife to achieve it all. With candor and humor, she describes her early failures; the pain of betrayal in a first marriage; her struggles as a single mother; the flings of an ardent, liberated young woman; the vertigo of becoming an internationally bestselling author; her adoption of a second daughter from a refugee camp; the poignant account of Clay's decline; and her ongoing passion for life, work, and love.
Fascinating and no-holds-barred, Daring: My Passages is a testament to guts, resilience, and smarts, and offers a bold perspective on all of life's passages.
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Gail Sheehy's brief narrative of her lonely childhood, early life, and first marriage seemingly put her on the outside looking in, where she began developing her powers of observation that led her to become such a remarkable and celebrated journalist. After her college graduation (UVM) in 1958, she was hired as an editor of the woman's page at the Democrat Chronicle. Sheehy writes about the cultural expectations of male editorial staff where female long term career goals and plans were temporary to being a full time wife and mother first. There wasn't yet a name for feminism, or the women's liberation movement, but readers can see where Sheehy, as she writes about working with Gloria Stienem, (who started out working as a receptionist at Esquire in 1960), and Helen Gurley Brown paved the way for women's rights in the work force.
"Seduction at the Algonquin" (chapter 5) begins Sheehy's now historical literary romance, marriage, and relationship to the gifted legendary editor (New York Magazine) Clay Felker (1925-2008) who was noted for his enthusiastic sponsorship and mentoring new writers and journalists, proclaiming he would make them a "star", which he did! Sheehy understandably writes carefully of her beginnings with Felker, as they were both married to others. "Lovesounds of a Wife" (1970) created a "buzz" that launched her writing career. Sheehy covered the historical RFK campaign in 1968, under Felker's direction, they married in 1984. In addition to her daughter Maura, (from her marriage to Albert Sheehy), Sheehy adopted their daughter Moham from a Cambodian refugee camp that she visited on assignment in 1982.
I agree with previous observations from other reviews that this memoir is a love letter in memory of Felker. In the last part, Sheehy writes with much emotion of Felker's decline due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, her own imperfections and brief dependence on alcohol, and resolve to stay connected and engaged with her children and grandchildren following Felker's passing.
While it is noticeable that there are details of Sheehy's life not included in the book, this doesn't change the fact of the richness of literary historical documentation of both US and world cultural customs, people, and events of great public interest and fascination. Sheehy wrote extensively about Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, and Hillary Clinton, her book "Passages" is called one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. The author of 16 books, Sheehy resides in NYC. Included are great photos throughout the book.
Now comes Gail Sheehy's personal story. I did want to know more about her life. As a journalist, she has been in the middle of some of the most important historical events worldwide. She has profiled international political figures. She has raised two girls into womanhood. She has been married, divorced, remarried and widowed.
At the same time I was reading this book, I was listening to the audiobook of Carole King's autobiography, A Natural Woman. Although the two women are from different spheres and took very different paths, both have a strong New York connection. It was a very interesting counterpoint. But I digress.
Gail Sheehy's memoir Daring is interesting, readable, and provides a new (to me) perspective on well-known historical and popular persons and events. (Her take on Hillary Clinton is particularly compelling IMO.) I do think she holds herself somewhat aloof in recounting the story of her life. She has essentially turned her journalist's eye on herself. So we know what happened to her, what she did, decisions she made, where she went, but ultimately I don't feel like I know Gail Sheehy. The very end, as her husband is dying, is rawer and more emotional, but this is after 400 pages of pretty straightfordward journalistic reporting.
To me it is kind of like a New York cocktail party (or at least how I think of one, not that I have been to many): gloss and polish, some content, but not a lot of passion. It's a longish book but an easy read. I do recommend it, it's interesting but I didn't really feel a connection with the author. In some ways I think she exposed more of herself in her sociological nonfiction. Still, worth your time.
Driven to excel by a papa who switched her legs when she failed to win,
competition and daring were patterns of behavior. She found strong editors
who fed her inquiring nature with assignments both dangerous and unique.
Daring to delve into taboo and unexplored subjects, she brought the methods
of an anthropologist to her work. Approaching world level leaders, she sought to
examine their personal motivations, to see who they were as people, learn their strengths and weaknesses.
All this while living an on and off live-in with strong man publisher Clay Felker, her mentor and love of her life.
A novel of intrigue, love, victories and loss.
Lots of names, inside stories, history from a women who in
many ways shaped the thinking of our time.