Hello, Gorgeous -- Becoming Barbra Streisand by William J. Mann, HMH '12, $30, 566 pages, ASIN #0547368925. Index, notes, no bibliography, two groupings of b&w glossy images.
Few musical artists have captivated Americans over more than a half-century as completely as Barbra Steisand, a singer who arrived in May, 1960 as a 17-year-old kid from Brooklyn and still belts out tunes new and old commandingly at age 70. In a brief Q&A, author William J. Mann discusses the writing of his latest biography:
Q. You've written acclaimed biographies of Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Why have you now turned your sights to Barbara Streisand?
A. What has always interested me about these iconic figures is how they mastered the art of stardom and the business of fame.....Each of my subjects has been far cleverer, far shrewder than she's been given credit for. Each pursued celebrity in different ways and for different reasons. In Streisand's case, it wasn't about fame for fame's sake, as it was for Hepburn, or fame as a ticket to a lush lifestyle, as it was for Taylor. Rather it was about proving that she mattered -- that she was great -- to a father she had never known, a mother who hadn't seemed to care, and a world that had thought she was too different to ever be successful.
Q. How did Streisand's relationship with her mother affect/help shape the star? And likewise for Streisand's relationships with her early lovers, particularly Barry Dennen and Elliott Gould?
A. Our culture is rife with figures who were propelled forward by a sense of being 'invisible' to parents and a desire to prove themselves worthy of parental pride. Hepburn was one; Bill Clinton; Madonna. But Streisand, again, is the quintessential example. So much of what drove her was her longing for her mother to simply tell her, "You did good" -- but such praise was always heartbreakingly not forthcoming. Likewise, in her early relationships with men, Streisand was seeking the nurturance and support that had been so lacking as she grew up.
William J. Mann has written biographies of Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor as well as several other works of fiction and nonfiction.
My American Revolution -- Crossing the Delaware and I-78 by Robert Sullivan, Farrar, Straus & Giroux '12, $26, 259 pages, ASIN #0374217459. Notes on sources, no index or illustrations.
Some writers draw their material from their intellect, some from archives, some from interviews. New Yorker Robert Sullivan mines the notes of his travels, largely within America, often tracking the exploits of such explorers as Lewis and Clark, Jack Kerouac, and the American Revolution. In a Q&A with Publishers Weekly, Robert Sullivan discusses how he came to write it:
Q. Why has New York and New Jersey neglected its Revolutionary War history, as you write, unlike Massachusetts, for example?
A. A lot of the stuff that happened in New England during the war is today counted in the win category -- the Battle of Lexington and Concord, for example, or even the siege of Boston, wherein the British are always said to have run, even if scholars now say they were about to leave anyway. In New York and New Jersey, it's more of a landscape of loss -- the retreats from Brooklyn, evacuation of Manhattan and then New Jersey.
Q. How did this book evolve?
A. What was guiding me was the almanac of the list of days and lists of numbers. There's nothing to it but the way we mark time. We're just trying to find a stake to put down and have a way to examine time's passing. You get to see where people over and over have thought of the same dates, like Washington's inauguration. And while writing the book about Thoreau (The Thoreau You Don't Know), I learned that he seemed to have been assembling an almanac, to examine when things bloomed in town, how high rivers were, when birds came through.
Robert Sullivan is the author of The Meadowlands, a Whale Hunt, Rats, and most recently, The Thoreau You Don't Know. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines. Born in Manhattan, he now lives in Brooklyn.
Soldiers First -- Duty, Honor, Country, and Football at West Point by Joe Drape, Times Books '12, $26, 275 pages, ASIN #0805094903. Index, no bibliography or notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
Barely two months for holiday shopping. And for the football fanatic on your list, particularly if he or she's a veteran, consider the latest book by New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape, who shadowed the U.S. Military Academy's team for a year.
"At West Point," Drape writes, "they (the cadets) carry the same arduous load as their fellow cadets, shouldering an Ivy League-caliber education and year-round military training. After graduation they are not going to the NFL but to danger zones halfway around the world. These young men are not simply football players, they are soldiers first."
Joe Drape, who formerly wrote for the Dallas Morning News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has written four other books in the field of sports. He lives with his family in New York.