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The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America
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The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  18 ratings  ·  5 reviews
A revealing biography ofthe influential and controversial cultural titan who embodied an era

New York City in the early twentieth century was a hotbed of vice and creativity, and the critic, novelist, and photographer Carl Van Vechten was at the center of it all. The Tastemaker explores the many lives of the era’s most influential cultural impresario: the critic who brought
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Who is this 32-year prissy, naïve UK bio writer named Edward White? He lacks the essential quality a CVV biographer needs : sophistication. He reluctantly lauds CVV while making judgmental groans about "smut," a fav word. Clearly, he needed and wanted a project, and the result is a very snide, unlikeable book abt a complex, likeable Personality. CVV deserves far better. So do we.

After discovering CVVs engaging novel "Parties" some years ago, I wanted to know lots more abt the author -- like
Larry-bob Roberts
Years ago, I read Bruce Kellner's 1968 biography, Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverant Decades written when his wife was still alive, and perhaps for that reason omitting many prurient details. I'd been turned on to Van Vechten by Brian Bouldrey's essay "Blue Jade." At one point I thought I might take on the project of a new biography, but that never got further than my starting the Wikipedia article on Van Vechten in 2004. These days Van Vechten is probably most noticed because of the photos of ...more
Some biographers make the mistake of writing hagiographies, treating their subjects as saints to be glorified rather than real human beings. Not so Edward White. His biography of the complex Carl Van Vechten does not hesitate to question and criticize his subject, when such criticism seems deserved. Van Vechten was clearly a complex, self-obsessed, egotistical man, who curiously sought self-publicity by being the first to trumpet the work of others. He helped to bring the work of Gertrude Stein ...more
Interesting but could have fleshed out more of Van Vechten's life. For instance, mentions in passing that Van vechten's cats were important to him but fails to mention The Tiger in the House (Carl Van Vechten's frequently reprinted history of cats.
This is a delightfully detailed, well-researched and fast-reading biography of Carl Van Vechten. The skill of Edward White (the author) is balanced by what a truly self-promoting and ANNOYING person CVV must have been to personally know.
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