I feel sorry for the reviewers who found this wonderfully crafted biography"dry" or "too long." I loved the way I could sink into it and vicariously eI feel sorry for the reviewers who found this wonderfully crafted biography"dry" or "too long." I loved the way I could sink into it and vicariously experience the 90 years that made up the very rich life of its subject, a ruthlessly sexual antiheroine whose larger than life story would be unbelievable if written as fiction.
I never recall reading a single issue of Cosmo, not am I interested in the people who were the New York A-List 40 years ago--or even 10 years ago when Helen Gurley Brown was still busy at her desk, but this book held my interest all the way through, precisely because it was about so much more thanher life.
This book should delight anyone who appreciates the best in biograpy or is interested in 20th century social history. Beyond that, the story it tells is a revelation about how much a person who started out with no advantage but brains can accomplish through unceasing hard work and determination.
This book also mades me realize just how dumbed down mass market publishing has become since the 1970s. The quality of the writers supposedly "trashy" Cosmo was publishing in the 60s and 70s is eye opening. People of every class and educational level used to read long, complex and engaging works back then with a degree of pleasure no distracted cell-enslaved young woman of today will ever experience.
Maybe you had to grow up before the onset of the Age of Distraction to fully appreciate this book....more
This is the most poorly written book I've read this year. Apparently Wallach's publisher saved money by skipping the copyedit. The misuse of languageThis is the most poorly written book I've read this year. Apparently Wallach's publisher saved money by skipping the copyedit. The misuse of language is jarring--for example cowboys in Texas are described as "rustling" cattle in a sentence where the author means herding, not stealing. The sentence structure is clumsy. There are long stretches of writing that read is if they were copied from 19th century newspapers, though there is no attribution.
But far worse are the numerous errors of fact, which make it clear that Ms. Wallach is ignorant of many commonly known facts of 19th century history and daily life.
Early on she describes ambergris as a whale bone product. It isn't. It's a substance found in whale stomachs. Later she lists companies and people active during the Civil war and states that Pulitzer was active as a journalist at the time. He was at the time, in fact, a new immigrant serving in the Union army. He worked as a journalist years later.
There were many other such small, but telling mistakes of historical , which were all the more damning because they could have been easily checked with a single Google query.
For those who might wonder where the author came up with the information in her page, the notes are a dead loss. There are very few citations, and long tracts of text appear without any clue as to where the facts they describe came from.
Given how poor the author's grounding was in simple details of 19th century life, and the lack of decent footnoting, there is no reason to believe that the story told here is accurate. It certainly doesn't tell us anything about how Hetty Green accumulated her great wealth. And though the author dismisses the worst accusation against Green--that her cheapness led to her son's losing his leg, there are no facts to back up this claim either, and the rest of the picture Wallach paints of Green makes her sound like a thoroughly unpleasant person who would be quite capable of doing just that.
I have to say I find it really depressing that a book this poorly written and researched gets the kind of big book treatment it does, when so many far better biographies languish in obscurity without the big advances and heavy promotion this author, mysteriously, commands. ...more
I join the others who flag this as a best book of the year. Very dense with important ideas well supported by research, it goes way beyond simplisticI join the others who flag this as a best book of the year. Very dense with important ideas well supported by research, it goes way beyond simplistic descriptions of the hygiene hypothesis to paint a complex and frankly terrifying picture of how the autoimmune epidemics we currently are experiencing grow from disrupting the symbiotic relationships we have evolved with....more
This isn't as insightful a biography as the one by Jane Aiken Hodge. Though it claims to have new material, it wasn't evident. Once the story got pastThis isn't as insightful a biography as the one by Jane Aiken Hodge. Though it claims to have new material, it wasn't evident. Once the story got past Heyer's youth, it became a dull recitation of the facts of her business relationship with her various publishers.
The author ignores or brushes off Heyer's notorious snobbism and antisemitism, which were all the more significant because she came from a barely middle class family with recent Jewish roots. (Her grandfather was a Russian Jewish immigrant.)
The Hodge bio looks more deeply into the way in which Heyer's discomfort with her real social class and background formed her personality and influenced the subject matter of her books.
Kloester also virtually ignores the way that Heyer created a very false image of the Regency period by imposing on it the social mores and practices of the Edwardian period of her early youth. There were no dance cards in the Regency, and young women were far more aware and interested in illicit sex than Heyer--who appears to have been phobic about the topic--would have you believe. You need only read Jane Austen's Lady Susan, written in her teens, to realize the huge gap between what a truly upper class young woman would have known and thought about and what Heyer's heroines are like(Austen was related to nobility and titled families).
Finally, the author completely left undiscussed the strong thread of incestuous relationships in Heyer's books. Husbands decades older than spunky but also very silly child heroines are a familiar theme. This should at least have been mentioned. Instead Kloester comes across as a simpering fan-girl in love with her subject. Could this have something to do with the fact that her book is published by Heyer's current publisher? One wonders.