Jenny Brown's Reviews > American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

American Rose by Karen Abbott
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's review
Mar 10, 2011

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Read from March 10 to 11, 2011

I was enthusiastic when I started this book, but halfway through I became frustrated with the way that the author didn't go beyond what seemed like a very limited number of sources, many of them repeating the myths that Gypsy Rose Lee created about herself in adulthood.

Very important issues are touched on without virtually no elucidation--most significantly the author's claim that Gypsy's mother murdered two men and a third woman. The author hints at very dark sexual undercurrents beneath the glitz, but mostly ignores them in favor of glorifying the world of strippers in a way that seemed to me to ignore sexual abuse and ugliness that shaped so many of the people involved--including Gypsy Rose Lee herself.

I also found myself wondering about Gypsy Rose Lee's reputation as an intellectual, which the author cites without going into it. It sounded very much like all the other fake creations of those who publicized her, like her marriage. But the author never discusses whether Gypsy really wrote the books that were published under her name or asks why some of the bigger intellectual names of the day socialized with her.

I assumed there was some reason she veered back and forth from two storylines, one from birth and one from 1940, but if there was it eluded me.

So while I would say this is an interesting book with which to while away the time, it left me with more questions than it answered and as others have posted, the overall feeling it left me with because of the unsavory issues it raised without going deeply enough into them was fairly uncomfortable.
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