Synopses & Reviews
Tenth Anniversary EditionThe story of how four young bohemians on the make - Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez, and Richard Farina - converged in Greenwich Village, fell into love, and invented a sound and a style that are one of the most lasting legacies of the 1960s
When Bob Dylan, age twenty-five, wrecked his motorcycle on the side of a road near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was recognized as a genius, a youth idol, and the authentic voice of the counterculture: and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark as a protest singer with an acid wit and a barbwire throat, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.
So embedded are Dylan and the Village in the legend of the Sixties--one of the most powerful legends we have these days--that it is easy to forget how it all came about. In Positively Fourth Street, David Hajdu, whose 1995 biography of jazz composer Billy Strayhorn was the best and most popular music book in many seasons, tells the story of the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but his part-time lover Joan Baez - the first voice of the new generation; her sister Mimi - beautiful, haunted, and an artist in her own right; and her husband Richard Farina, a comic novelist (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me) who invented the worldliwise bohemian persona that Dylan adopted--some say stole--and made as his own.
The story begins in the plain Baez split-level house in a Boston suburb, moves to the Cambridge folk scene, Cornell University (where Farina ran with Thomas Pynchon), and the University of Minnesota (where Robert Zimmerman christened himself Bob Dylan and swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic and a harmonica rack) before the four protagonists converge in New York.
Based on extensive new interviews and full of surprising revelations, Positively Fourth Street is that rare book with a new story to tell about the 1960s. It is, in a sense, a book about the Sixties before they were the Sixties--about how the decade and all that it is now associated with it were created in a fit of collective inspiration, with an energy and creativity that David Hajdu captures on the page as if for the first time.
"A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology and pop cultural history . . ." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[A] lovely madeleine of a book" (The New York Times) about the intertwined lives of the sixties' most gifted young foursome.
“A hauntingly evocative blend of biography, musicology, and pop culture history.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“This ambitious four-headed biographical narrative...vividly re-creates the folk era.”—Terrence Rafferty, GQ
“In a teetering stack of Dylan biographies and commentaries, [this is] the one new publication of distinction and clarity.”—David Remnick, The New Yorker
Chicago Tribune Best Books of 2013
Publisherand#8217;s Weekly Best Books of 2013
NPRand#8217;s Best Books of 2013
Los Angeles Times Best Seller
Entertainment Weeklyand#8217;s Top 10 Books of 2013
Newsdayand#8217;s Top 10 Books of 2013
Los Angeles Public Library Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013
Kirkus Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013 "Mr. Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand talesand#8212;required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of and#8212; to use a term that appears here constantly, and canand#8217;t be outdone and#8212; razzle-dazzle."
and#8212;Janet Maslin, New York Times "Fascinating and exhaustive biography...Mr. Wasson has taken complete control of his subject."
and#8212;Wall Street Journal
'He thought he was the best, and he thought he was terrible.' The man in question is legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse, whose celebrated life and career get their due in Sam Wasson's spellbinding 695-page biography, Fosse. You don't need to be a Broadway expert to enjoy this portrait of a man whose rise to power was famously fueled by insecurity. It's all here: accounts of his monstrous, masterful directing style; the explosive personal battles behind his Tony-winning triumphs; his incendiary relationship with Gwen Verdon. Wasson simply doesn't miss a thing. Give the guy a (jazz) hand. A-"
and#8212;Vanity Fair "The only thing that could have been better than Sam Wasson's page-turning, comprehensively rendered biography of choreographer-director Bob Fosse would have been Fosse's own memoir...Wasson's own narrative style has a jazzy, discursive and relentless energy well aligned with its subject."
and#8212;USA Today "Thorough and lively biography."
and#8212;New Yorker, Briefly Noted "Amazingly well-written."
and#8212;New York Journal of Books "Unlike countless biographies of artists and performers, "Fosse" does not rely on dime-store psychoanalysis in explicating its subject and his flaws...Wasson, so skilled at providing a macro overview -- he seamlessly outlines the history of both the American stage and the American movie musical to better foreground Fosse's transformations of each -- has also written a book filled with dazzling aperand#231;us."
and#8212;Newsday "Wasson's biography is richly researched and passionate, and while Fosse's film pursuits are only a part of the story, his life had a cinematic sweep."
and#8212;The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The reason I picked up Fosse, though, has as much to do with its author as with its subject. . . . Wasson is a canny chronicler of old Hollywood and its outsize personalities. (The cast of characters is enough to recommend the book: Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Henry Mancini, Edith Head.) More than that, he understands that style matters, and, like his subjects, he has a flair for it."
and#8212;Hollywood Reporter "Scintillating . . . There's an enormous amount of scholarship here, yet the story never drags, so adroitly does [Wasson] blend his material into a fluent narrative around evocative scenes where character emerges novelistically."
and#8212;Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Here's something you can't say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon . . . A pure joy to read, cover to cover."
and#8212;Booklist "Lushly researched . . . [Wasson] has amassed a mountain of data about Fosse but has sculpted it into something moving and memorable. . . . Graceful prose creates a richly detailed and poignant portrait." and#8212;Kirkus (starred review) "Deep inside this comprehensive study, Sam Wasson uses a phrase to describe the movie Cabaret: 'the bejeweling of horror.' Bob Fosse's whole life was something like that, a man who created magnificent, bejeweled art at personal cost. It's an American story, powerfully told."
and#8212; Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost "I tore through this masterful biography, loving it from beginning to end. Wasson writes with a verve ideally tuned to his subject, sparkling with wit and fresh insight. . . . This is a life lived large and#8212; and dangerously and#8212; amid cultural currents that propelled and inspired Fosse as a dancer, choreographer, and director. In Fosse, Sam Wasson energetically and authoritatively brings it all into sharp focus, with uncanny depth and perception."
and#8212; Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen "Hard work is evident in the intricate depiction of a complicated, brilliant man...A thoroughly researched and fascinating look at Fosse, viewed through the relationships and work that defined him. Highly recommended for theater or movie aficionados, aspiring performers, and fans of engrossing biography."
and#8212;Library Journal, STARRED review
"Sam Wassonand#8217;s Fosse is terrific in both senses of the word. Itand#8217;s magnificent and frightening in equal measure, a biography so detailed and exacting that it makes you feel so close to Bob Fosse at all the major and many of the minor events of his life that you can practically smell the cigarette stink . . . Fosse is one of the best, most entertaining biographies I have ever read.and#160;. . . [Wasson's]and#160;intelligent prose flies off the page. Heand#8217;s not only an impressive researcherand#8212;he interviewed more than 300 of Fosseand#8217;s friends and associatesand#8212; but a wonderfully witty writer who chose every one of the bookand#8217;s vast number of words with extraordinary care. And heand#8217;s got a killer sense of humor. Some sentences of this book are so damn funny that I laughed out loud." and#8212; Film Quarterly
"Positively 4th Street" is the story of how four young bohemians on the make--Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez, and Richard Farina--converged in Greenwich Village, fell in love, and invented a sound and style that is one of the most lasting legacies of the 1960s. of photos.
When twenty-five-year-old Bob Dylan wrecked his motorcycle near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was already recognized as a genius, a youth idol with an acid wit and a barbwire throat; and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.
In Positively 4th Street, David Hajdu recounts the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but also his part-time lover Joan Baez -- the first voice of the new generation; her sister Mimi -- beautiful, haunted, and an artist in her own right; and Mimi's husband, Richard Fariña, a comic novelist (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me) who invented the worldly-wise bohemian persona that Dylan adopted -- some say stole -- and made his own.
A national bestseller in hardcover, acclaimed as "one of the best books about music in America" (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post), Positively 4th Street is that rare book with a new story to tell about the 1960s -- about how the decade and all that it is now associated with were created in a fit of collective inspiration, with an energy and creativity that David Hajdu has captured on the page as if for the first time.
The authoritative and endlesslyand#160;revealing biography of renowned dancer, choreographer, screenwriter, and director Bob Fosse, written by a bestselling pop culture historian.
More than a quarter-century after his death, Bob Fosseand#8217;s fingerprints on popular culture remain indelible. The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Fosse revolutionized nearly every facet of American entertainment, forever marking Broadway and Hollywood with his iconic style and#8212; hat tilted, fingers splayed and#8212; that would influence generations of performing artists. Yet in spite of Fosseand#8217;s innumerable achievements, no accomplishment ever seemed to satisfy him, and offstage his life was shadowed in turmoil and anxiety.Now, bestselling author Sam Wasson unveils the man behind the swaggering sex appeal, tracing Fosseand#8217;s untold reinventions of himself over a career that would spawn The Pajama Game, Cabaret, Pippin, All That Jazz, and Chicago, one of the longest-running Broadway musicals ever. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources and#8212; friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of whom have never spoken publicly about Fosse before and#8212; Wasson illuminates not only Fosseand#8217;s prodigious professional life, but also his close and conflicted relationships with everyone from Liza Minnelli to Ann Reinking to Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman. Wasson also uncovers the deep wounds that propelled Fosseand#8217;s insatiable appetites and#8212; for spotlights, women, and life itself. In this sweeping, richly detailed account, Wassonand#8217;s stylish, effervescent prose proves the ideal vehicle for revealing Bob Fosse as he truly was and#8212; after hours, close up, and in vibrant color.
About the Author
first book, Lush Life
, won the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and is being adapted for a feature film. Hajdu lives in New York City and writes for The New York Times Magazine
, Vanity Fair
, and The New York Review of Books.
Table of Contents
One Hour and Fifty-Three Minutesand#160;and#160;and#160;586 and#160; Acknowledgmentsand#160;and#160;and#160;593