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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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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  29 ratings  ·  7 reviews
A revealing biography of the influential and controversial cultural titan who embodied an era


The Tastemaker explores the many lives of Carl Van Vechten, the most influential cultural impresario of the early twentieth century: a patron and dealmaker of the Harlem Renaissance, a photographer who captured the era's icons, and a novelist who created some of the Jazz Age's most
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ebook, 400 pages
Published February 18th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Sketchbook
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
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
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
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
Rose
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.
Michael Ritchie
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.
Karen
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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