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The Fan Who Knew Too Much: Aretha Franklin, the Rise of the Soap Opera, Children of the Gospel Church, and Other Meditations

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  39 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
A dazzling exploration of American culture—from high pop to highbrow—by acclaimed music authority, cultural historian, and biographer Anthony Heilbut, author of the now classic The Gospel Sound (“Definitive” —Rolling Stone), Exiled in Paradise, and Thomas Mann (“Electric”—Harold Brodkey).

In The Fan Who Knew Too Much, Heilbut writes about art and obsession, from country b
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Knopf
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Craig Werner
Aug 04, 2013 Craig Werner rated it liked it
Shelves: music
A miscellany of Heilbut's prose that highlights both his strengths and his weaknesses. As he demonstrated in The Gospel Sound, he's one of the very best writers about African American gospel of the "Golden Age"; an interesting sidelight is that he says he'd expand his original dating of 1945-1960 by a decade in both directions if he were writing it today). The best essay in this collection concerns the "Children of the Gospel Church," the gays and lesbians who played a central role in creating w ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Melva rated it it was ok
Became disinterested in finishing. Lost me at Thomas Mann-how did that connect to gospel music, queers and Aretha Franklin?
Aug 11, 2013 Marc rated it it was amazing
I must respectfully disagree with a previous reviewer's comments about this book's essay on Aretha Franklin. Anthony Heilbut considers all of her music and, with his keen ear and incisive pen, rethinks the conventional wisdom about the queen of soul. He makes listeners appreciate perhaps for the first time the brilliance of Aretha's Columbia records, how they drew from her gospel roots to bring a new kind of passion and intimacy to the world of popular music. And he shows equal admiration for he ...more
Travis Todd
Aug 31, 2013 Travis Todd rated it really liked it
I learned the most from the essay about gospel and the black church and the essential role of gays in both, could barely force myself through the history of the soap opera, gained more of an appreciation for the roots and motivation of Aretha Franklin, a subject I knew and know very little about, and enjoyed the exploration of the meaning of being a fan the most, probably because it was the closest to my own experience. There is an overstuffed lusciousness to the prose that is exhausting in larg ...more
Dawn Lennon
Jul 08, 2016 Dawn Lennon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music
It is rare that I give up on a book, even if it isn't working for me. But I did here. As much as I like gospel music, as fascinated as I am with the people of the gospel church and their stories, as important as I consider its culture and history, I simply could not navigate Heilbut's writing style. I even moved to other chapters to see if his writing connected more clearly with the content and themes, but that didn't happen for me.

There is so much rich and illuminating history that is contained
Phil Overeem
Jul 24, 2016 Phil Overeem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A joy. FUN to read; EDIFYING to read; hard on the wallet (you will need to buy a few records); and IRREVERANT. Highly recommended. The highlight is the opening 94-page essay, about the role of gay men and women not only in the development in African-American non-secular music, but also in the church and in our larger culture. In addition, a spear thrown at the heart of homophobe ministers and doctrines.
Margo Jefferson
Aug 19, 2012 Margo Jefferson rated it it was amazing
These amazing essays go "boldly where no one has gone before". No, Anthony Heilbut doesn't write about "Star Trek": be content with Aretha Franklin, Joseph Roth, the gay core (social, political and aesthetic) of the black church, the woman-dominated soap opera, and wise thoughts about outsider artists and cultures.
Richard Epstein
Dec 09, 2013 Richard Epstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent essays on subjects about which I knew almost nothing. Who can ask for more than that?

Disclosure: I got sent this book for free, on the representation I'd review it. If I hadn't liked it, I'd have said so. Anyone doubt that?
Feb 04, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this stuff - endlessly running-on, meandering, thoughtful essays on subjects that don't get enough attention. Feels unedited.
Rodney Welch
Rodney Welch rated it really liked it
May 29, 2012
Unfinished. He lost me at Thomas Mann.
William Montgomery
William Montgomery rated it it was amazing
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Anthony Heilbut received his Ph.D. in English from Harvard University. He has taught at New York University and Hunter College and is the author of Exiled in Paradise, The Gospel Sound, and Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature. Heilbut is also a record producer specializing in gospel music and has won both a Grammy Award and a Grand Prix du Disque.
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