Eleni's Reviews > The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities

The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber
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Jan 29, 2012

it was amazing
Read in August, 2011

This book is proof that gossipy and highbrow are not mutually exclusive terms. I love it when you can immerse yourself in scandal and not come away feeling dirty (hence my addiction to Downtown Abbey) and this memoir fulfills that for me (an affectionate remembrance of grandma's extramarital affair? Count me in!). Although there are plenty of descriptions of Nick-and-Nora-esque parties (when it comes to the author's grandparents' generation, not so much her own folks), it's not all champagne and caviar, and the sometimes ugly actions of the "beautiful people" in a rarefied world make for fascinating conflict. I admire Weber's honesty, which is unflinching when describing her complicated relationship with her confusing father (a sort of genius grifter type), but just as impressive as she warmly recalls her clever, charming, but self-centered maternal grandmother (whom I sort of imagine as talking like Auntie Mame but sounding like Katherine Hepburn). Weber's insight, along with her elegant prose, elevate this above a "listening at the keyhole" voyeuristic thrill; it also works as a number of intertwined psychological profiles. You kind of want your friends (and your therapist) to read it so you can dissect the people involved--and their relationships and neuroses. (How did the author manage to choose such a stable spouse, for example, given her own mess of a withholding dad? Discuss!) I found this book very evocative of times and settings I never got to experience, and it all got me thinking that truth isn't just stranger than fiction--it can be messier, too.
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