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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel

There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »


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Donna Trujillo has commented on (4) products.

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler
Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse

Donna Trujillo, January 25, 2011

This book is to literature what roller derby is to sport. It's got everything: a believable post-apocalyptic America, guns, gin, gangs and go-go girls. Not only that, it's held together by a sympathetic everyman whose hero's journey begins where known civilization has collapsed. Thanks to Victor Gischler, the end of the world is a gas!
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Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante by Stephen Cooper
Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante

Donna Trujillo, July 30, 2009

Before Bukowski there was Fante. Stephen Cooper's wonderfully readable biography is, like his subject, both elegant and savage as it illuminates the life of one of America's most misunderstood literary lions. He escapes the oppressive influence of his domineering father, only to replace the emotionally desolate mountains of Colorado with the equally impoverished canyon that is downtown Los Angeles in the mid-twentieth century. Emotionally and physically bereft, he weaves poetic tales of poverty, savagery, sexuality and want that reflect the equally complex life that he is living.

As an Angeleno, it is impossible to not be mesmerized, not only by Fante's life in Los Angeles, but by mid-century Los Angeles itself, which emerges as an equally tattered but beautiful character in the story. Like Hollywood, which will eventually embrace him, Fante emerges as a dazzling facade of a person who both hides and reveals what may or may not be behind the scrim that is his larger-than-life exterior. This is a wonderful read about one of America's most influential but overlooked writers.
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Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein
Edie: American Girl

Donna Trujillo, February 21, 2008

Edie is the story of Edie Sedgwick, a poor little rich girl who stumbled, half-crocked, into the heady world of Andy Warhol's hippy-era Factory. An arguably talented but certainly engaging collection of degenerate dilettantes narrates this oral biography: Ondine, Gerard Malanga, Brigid Berlin, Viva, Ultra Violet, Billy Name, to name a few. But the splendid cast of characters doesn't end there. People like Bob Dylan and Diana Vreeland and even, oddly, Lance Loud (of the PBS documentary "An American Family") also make appearances. As they share their remembrances of Edie, they each manage to share, intentionally or unintentionally, something of themselves and of the extraordinary times in which they all found themselves.

The skeleton of this story is assembled from the fragile bones of Edie's life, collected by the people who witnessed her meteoric rise from New York socialite to model to Warholian Superstar and who were there to gasp in awe as her star plummeted to the earth, ending in her death from a barbiturate overdose in 1971. But as each narrator adds a memory to the memorial body, the flesh and feelings of an entire person emerges, along with the extraordinary times that they shared. In the story of Edie, we see the youthful radiance of the 60's counterculture degenerate into a toxic and bewildered soup by decade's end.

Like the cynical, drug-addled world that produced movies like "Factory Diaries," "Vinyl" and "Poor Little Rich Girl," "Edie" is often grotesque, assaultive, overcompensating. But it is also fascinating, a tapestry whose individual pieces are as interesting as the whole. So, too, is this a wonderful example of what an oral biography does best: it brings us into a room and into conversation with people with whom we may never speak. If you're looking to have a chat with the counter-culture, "Edie" is here, inviting you to the party.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)

Sisters the Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S Lovell
Sisters the Saga of the Mitford Family

Donna Trujillo, November 26, 2007

We forget that history is writ large by small individuals who sit at common dinner tables, attend the same parties, devote themselves to the same everyday tasks and who bump into one another at the weddings of mutual friends and renegade cousins. Never is this clearer than in this book about the Mitford sisters, six remarkable women who emerged from the same aristocratic British family as the representative faces of the Twentieth Century's defining ideologies. Diana was the Fascist, Decca was the Communist, Nancy the Democrat, Pam the country girl, Debo the debutante and Unity the Hitler groupie. For each and all, it was not uncommon to spend afternoon tea time with Hitler then dine with Churchill, all the while engaging in the intimate struggles of sisterhood and ideology.

To read this book is to understand how public partisanship can explode in the halls of government then melt into a chummy luncheon, how a Democratic Kennedy can be married to a Republican governor, how a Bush can hold hands with a sheik on Monday and bomb him on Tuesday.

Sisters the Saga of the Mitford Family is a carefully woven collective biography of six women whose individual stories are more than enough to satisfy the most avid biography junkie. But when the stories are told together against the backdrop of the entire Twentieth Century, the result is a delicious tangle of history, celebrity and intrigue that is both fascinating and moving.
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(11 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)

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