Gail Sheehy, known for her baby-boomer life roadmap "Passages" and a series of books with the "Passages" theme, wrote one of 2014's best memoirs. Although she again recycles the "Passages" brand, her "Daring: My Passages" reaches beyond pop psychology for an endearing, memorable account of her personal and writing lives.
Sheehy looks at her career and personal life with honesty, humor and passion. She presents a vivid, complex portrait of magazine genius Clay Felker, her mentor, lover and eventual husband. Major figures from New York's dynamic journalism culture of the 1960s, '70s and '80s appear in greater and lesser roles. Her family dramas give the book a novelistic power.
The book is a love song for a vanished great era of newspaper and magazine journalism. We look into the buzzing newsrooms of long-gone papers like the Herald Tribune, and watch Felker inspire his writers, editors, artists and photographers in creating a new kind of magazine at Esquire and his own New York magazine.
While Sheehy delves into personal and social issues like motherhood, alcoholism, menopause, providing care for a dying spouse and aging, she also shows strong business reporting in her look at how Felker lost New York to Rupert Murdoch and how he went about raising funds for new magazines.
Manhattan and international social gatherings come alive, along with recollections of historic events she covered, from Robert F. Kennedy's presidential run to Bloody Sunday in Northern Irelands. After her New York magazine and "Passages" success, she turned to portraits of world leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gobachev and Hillary Clinton for Tina Brown's Vanity Fair. In these days of blogs and the Interrnet, she's still going strong.
The book would make a good primer for young women interested in the history of feminism and women's battles to gain acceptance in the professional world, but men will also find her look at these issues engaging and insightful. Young, and older, journalists and authors will find a wealth of information, advice and encouragement on reporting and writing. Her historical and social accounts make for a strong documentary of the late 20th century.
Sheehy's book transcends boundaries, achieving a universal appeal with its cast of personalities, and dramatic personal tragedies and triumphs. Her frank, funny, honest and brave personality shines in every page.