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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

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3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  36 Ratings  ·  8 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
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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Sketchbook
Jun 02, 2014 Sketchbook rated it did not like it
Shelves: currently
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
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Larry-bob Roberts
Jun 01, 2014 Larry-bob Roberts rated it really liked it
Shelves: bohemianism
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
Jeff
Jun 04, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it
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
Steven
May 10, 2015 Steven rated it it was amazing
An immensely entertaining, vividly written, and exceptionally well researched biography (there are 33 pages of footnotes) of a character who is hardly remembered today. I knew Carl Van Vechten from the incandescent series of portrait photographs he took beginning in 1930 at the age of 50, but he had three or four other careers before then--as a journalist, critic, novelist, and--most importantly--as a tireless promoter of African-American culture to the white mainstream audience during the Harle ...more
Michael Ritchie
May 10, 2015 Michael Ritchie rated it liked it
I'm glad to have read a book about this important but forgotten figure of American culture, but it is blandly written, and Van Vechten never really comes to life in the pages. It feels more like a long magazine article than a fully committed biography of depth.
Rose
Mar 18, 2014 Rose rated it liked it
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.
Karen
Sep 07, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
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.
Claudia Schumann
Dec 01, 2015 Claudia Schumann rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book because it would give me some history around Gertrude Stein who was a close friend of Van Vechten. The book was very interesting and presented the very interesting life of Carl Van Vechten very well.
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