Illuminates Gershwin and his era more than any previous biography....
|Title||:||The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin|
|Number of Pages||:||320 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin Reviews
As anyone who knows me might guess, I was immediately drawn to Joan Peyser's "The Memory of all that." I finished it last night and, while I don't regret the read, I'm not all that sure I can recommend it either. My hesitation may have more to do with my own feelings about biographies; that's an idea which occurred to me while reading and which I'm only beginning to explore.Peyser tells us that she wrote the book in order to provide insight into Gershwin's character and temperament. She does a good job of portraying an extremely insecure, sometimes self absorbed composer whose work was often dismissed by "serious" musicians as having no merit whatsoever. We hear at some length about Gershwin's unstable childhood and his complex relationships with his mother and brother, Ira. We learn about George's womanizing and about the man who claims to be his son even though the Gershwin family has gone to great lengths to deny the truth of his assertions. (The author makes a case for the veracity of the claim.) We hear about parties where Gershwin would gravitate to the piano and then play all night long while showing little interest in the other guests in attendance. And, along the way, we hear some fascinating stories about the wonderful music we all know and love. My problem with this book is that I kept thinking "who cares?" That's a pretty strange reaction coming from someone who is passionate about the history of the Broadway musical. At first, I thought it was because, while I deeply cherish the music, I like to think that I have no interest whatsoever in the personal lives of those who create it. But if that's actually the case, then why was I so fascinated by Michael Feinstein's "Gershwin and Me?; I simply could not put that down and I know that I'll come back to it in the years to come. Maybe the difference is that Feinstein's memoir recounts personal experiences and is therefore much more personal. Peyser's book often reads like a college term paper. She goes to great lengths to credit her sources and it's clear that she has done her homework. Somehow though, the writing just did not captivate me.In thinking about all this though, I realized that I frequently have this reaction to biographies. The people being portrayed seem so distant that, while I learn a great deal about them, they don't feel real to me. It's Hammerstein without Rodgers, (the lyrics without the music.) And that difference somehow detracts from the experience for me. So, while I can't really recommend this book, I'm not sure if my lack of enthusiasm is a result of Peyser's work or this reader. I'll need to think a lot more about that. For now, I'll say that if the subject interests you, it might be worth trying this one; I'd love to know what you think if you do.
What a guy! He came from a family who expected his brother to play the piano, but Ira had no interest so George took it up instead. He wasn't the faithful studious kid, but a smart aleck who roamed the streets looking for adventure. His mentor was Irving Berlin who gave him a leg up at Tin Pan Alley. This opened doors for him and He and Ira began to collaborate with lyrics and music. He also hung around Harlem and probably stole some of their music. His "serious" contempories(Aaron Copeland) demeaned his efforts as fluff and indicated that he was essentially a flash in the pan.George did everything was though he knew his days were numbered. He painted, danced, played at any party until the time he said that he smelled burning rubber and collapsed. He died later of a brain tumor, not yet forty years old. As the 2008 Olympics ads play I wonder if Aaron Copeland is eating crow ( the United ad plays a snippet from "Rhapsody in Blue" about once every hour).
I'm far from ready to give a complete review, but need to make one negative comment about the book. It took Peyser 134 pages to complete 2 chapters. I prefer shorter chapters, MUCH SHORTER CHAPTERS.I am about 80 pages further on and must comment on the structure of the book. While the information is enlightening and well written, for the most part, Peyser is all over the place. She engages in one train of thought and then abruptly moves to another track. It is reminiscent of a conversation in which subjects are changed at the drop of a hat but returned to later.I would have liked to have given this book 4 stars because I love Gershwin's music, but I can't because I didn't hear the music. A number of years ago I started reading a book on Mozart but gave up on it because the author spent too much time analyzing the music. I would like to have seen a little of that here. Too much tabloid material but that seems to be what Gershwin's life was like.
I haven't read this yet, but I love this story about the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira.George was the composer of the music and Ira was the writer of the lyrics.A journalist asked Ira, "Which comes first - the music or the words".His reply: "The contract!"Things haven't changed in the music industry.
Overall a compelling book about a fascinating character whose music has been a huge influence. The style appeared a bit unorganized in places but the story was almost always interesting and the author's research very thorough.