Synopses & Reviews
The product of a lifetime immersed in the literary, performing arts, and entertainment worlds, Lives and Letters spotlights the work, careers, intimate lives, and lasting achievements of a vast array of celebrated writers and performers in film, theater, and dance, and some of the more curious iconic public figures of our times.
From the world of literature, Charles Dickens, James Thurber, Judith Krantz, John Steinbeck, and Rudyard Kipling; the controversies surrounding Bruno Bettelheim and Elia Kazan; and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her editor, Maxwell Perkins.
From dance and theater, Isadora Duncan and Margot Fonteyn, Serge Diaghilev and George Balanchine, Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse.
In Hollywood, Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, Douglas Fairbanks and Lillian Gish, Tallulah Bankhead and Katharine Hepburn, Mae West and Anna May Wong.
In New York, Diana Vreeland, the Trumps, and Gottliebs own take on the contretemps that followed his replacing William Shawn at The New Yorker.
And so much more . . .
"Squalid demises are unusually common in these lively, sardonic sketches of creative types heavily weighted toward long-dead writers, Old Hollywood icons and dance pioneers gathered from magazine pieces by Gottlieb, former editor-in-chief of Knopf and the New Yorker (he closes with a bitter retort to Renata Adler's acid-etched memoir of his tenure at the magazine). Gottlieb claims he is 'not drawn to sagas of self-destructing divas,' but that is false: Judy Garland ('illness, addiction and degradation'), Isadora Duncan (a 'ghastly wreck'), Katharine Hepburn ('vulgar and pathetic desperation to stay up to date and in the limelight'), and Tallulah Bankhead (last words: ''codeine bourbon'') are among the many tragic figures he profiles. Fortunately, his ambivalent, sometimes intimate appreciations of his subjects, many of whom he edited or otherwise knew, deftly illuminate the talent that preceded the denouement. Many of the pieces are reviews of biographies that serve as foils to Gottlieb's own interpretation; they let him deplore salacious scandal-mongering while quoting it, and embrace psychoanalysis Charles Dickens's mother issues, Harry Houdini's bondage fetish while mocking it. These essays are really criticisms of their subjects' lives amusing and engaged, but somewhat cool and dissatisfied, ready with praise but attuned to the revealing flaw. 20 b&w illus. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Robert Gottlieb was the president, publisher, and editor in chief of Alfred A. Knopf, and the editor of The New Yorker. He contributes to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Observer.