Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some of what I'm reading this Month

Katharine the Great: A Lifetime of Secrets Revealed... (1907-1950)
By Darwin Porter
Darwin Porter’s Hepburn biography Katharine the Great is subtitled A lifetime of secrets revealed. Well that’s not strictly true actually it’s half a lifetime of secrets revealed as despite running to a lengthy 500+ pages it still only charts Hepburn’s life up to 1950. The second instalment is due later and if its anything like as juicy as the first part I can’t wait.

I like to think I know most of “old” Hollywood’s gossip and rumours but Darwin Porter reveals stories and liaisons I had never heard of. Hepburn’s relationships with amongst others Claudette Colbert, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich, which were just rumours, are given real depth and substance, whilst the long held myth that her one true love was Spencer Tracy, is blown apart, in fact he had a penchant for younger men.

Whilst some of the book is obviously just gossip, it’s the first time anyone has come close to an all round honest portrait of Hepburn. Something her heavily edited and sugar sweet autobiography never did. Do I believe all of it? No. But then Did I believe any of her autobiography? No. The truth probably lies somewhere in between and in the meantime while we try and guess the truth, Porter’s book is certainly the most entertaining read of the lot.
If you want a good gossipy read this is the one for you.
**** Stars
Buy Katharine the Great: A Lifetime of Secrets at Amazon

All American Boy
By William J. Mann
William J Mann is one of my favourite authors I absolutely loved his biography of Billy Haines (Wisecracker) and his non fiction work Behind the Screen, about the lives of gay Hollywood pioneers. I also am a fan of his fiction in particular his novels Midnight in Savanah and The Biograph Girl. Which the author himself has informed me has been optioned for a film. So I was really looking forward to his new novel All American Boy. I have to say I was disappointed though beautifully written and thought provoking I just didn’t warm to the characters in particular the “hero” Wally Day.

The themes of the book, confronting our fears and facing our past to move forward were well handled and the premise that Wally though only 14 when he entered into a relationship with an older man was, in a way, the abuser rather than the abused was an interesting part of the story but with such un-likeable characters and somewhat implausible sub plots the book made somewhat heavy going. A shame as I’m normally such a fan.

Interestingly William is about to publish his own biography of Katherine Hepburn. I look forward to comparing the two.
** Stars
Buy All American Boy at Amazon

Son of a Witch: A Novel
By Gregory Maguire
Those of you who read my review of Wicked by Gregory Maguire will know how much I loved it so I approached the sequel, Son of a Witch with some trepidation as all too often second novels can be a huge disappointment. I needn’t have worried; Maguire has once again woven magic out of the hackneyed story of Oz and turned in a gem. Whilst the wicked witch is dead he son continues on from where she left off and pleasingly leaves enough un answered questions to ensure a third novel as well.

Brilliant stuff. Highly recommended.
**** Stars
Buy Son of a Witch: A Novel at Amazon

* Star-Dont put this book down, throw it as hard as you can out of the nearest window.
** Stars-Yawn.... bit of a dud
*** Stars-Not bad, but no masterpiece
**** Stars-A Ripping yarn definately worth killing a few hours with
***** Stars-Couldnt put it down! an instant classic

More Rank & Bile

8 comments:

Adam said...

I didnt think son of a witch was nearly as good as wicked

Sylvia said...

Kate Hepburn and Judy Garland you gotta be kidding right?

Myles said...

Apparently not? who knew?

Anonymous said...

Just surfed in . I never tire of reading about Katharine Hepburn and know a lot about her life . Darwin Porter's book is a fabrication from start to finish . However William J Mann has just completed a new book on Katharine which will be published in October 2006 . Happy reading

natalie_eve said...

Adam-

I'm the exact opposite. I slogged through Wicked and loved Son of a Witch.

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