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The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication---from the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote's Ball
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The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication---from the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote's Ball

2.62 of 5 stars 2.62  ·  rating details  ·  39 ratings  ·  13 reviews
From the 1920s to the early 1960s, Manhattan was America’s beacon of sophistication. From the theatres of Broadway to the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel to tables at the Stork Club, intelligence and wit were the twinned coins of the realm. Alexander Woolcott, Irving Berlin, Edna Ferber, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, Truman Capote, the Lunt ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by St. Martin's Press
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Lauren Albert
I found this very confusing. Like one reviewer said, it read like a gossip column--intentional, I assume, since he discusses gossip columnists. It meandered and jumped from topic to topic. Overly jokey.
I'll read anything Ethan Mordden writes about show business and this book, though billed as a cultural history, is about show business. I did skim the chapter on Toscanini, but otherwise I was pretty spellbound. I love his witty, we're-all-insiders-here writing style.
As someone with a profound interest in New York City history, I was eager to read this book, which promised to document the evolution of culture and changing definitions of sophistication in Manhattan. Unfortunately, after finally managing to finish the book (I ended up reading other books while reading this one), I can't really say I got much of a grasp on the book's content at all. The meandering, conversational style of the book lent itself better to a Broadway review or gossip column rather ...more
This book has an interesting thesis and some fun facts thrown in there, but the writing style is completely unreadable. It is so disorganized, it is difficult follow -- and the text is peppered with terrible jokes. (I assume they are jokes?) I understand the need for sass while writing this type of book, but knocking back a speakeasy's worth of gin and scribbling down your thoughts about early 20th-century luminaries and culture is better suited for a notebook you keep under your mattress, not a ...more
Jill Hutchinson
I'm not sure what to say about this I found fascinating; other sections were what I call "skimmers" (skim on through to the next section). The style was erratic......the chapters are taken by decades but didn't stay within the time frame; the language was that of an "insider" which doesn't always translate well to the less "sophisticated" reader. Most of the individuals spotlighted as players in the NYC scene are so unlikable that you really don't care about them or their anti-so ...more
I learned so much from the book. Each chapter lead me to another topic to explore.

It is dense, not an easy read, and almost like a reference book, but history lovers will
not be disappointed.

Soldier on -- Finish it. It WILL be worth it.

So, the subtitle of this book really hooked me. That book sounded awesome. However, the book I read was not as awesome. Mainly, the author talked about people and events like everyone already knew what he was talking about. I wanted there to be a stronger argument and there were mainly just anecdotes. I can't describe it but the whole tone of the this book really bothered me.
Cathy Day
I've spent the last few years pretty steeped in research for a book that takes place at the same time and in the same milieu as The Guest List, so I found a lot of this--particularly the discussions of Elsa Maxwell, Cole Porter, and Truman Capote--quite fascinating. I'm particularly interested in his term "publiciety," the joining of the words "publicity" and "society."
I was disappointed in this book. Yes, there's tons of facts. But they were not tied together in an interesting way for me--it seemed to be all forced together to prove the point of the title. It took a lot of effort on my part to finish the book. Perhaps if you have a very specific interest in Broadway music and show history, this book might appeal more.
I couldn't get past the 50-page marker. This book should have been really insightful and witty considering its subject, but it managed to turn an interesting chapter in American social history into a dry who's who...
Jessica  Gwen
Jan 02, 2011 Jessica Gwen is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I had to abandon this book because I found it somewhat insufferable. Maybe I'll give it another try at some point, but it isn't something I feel like reading at the moment.
Marcia Stauber
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