Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lurid details...

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Suggested by Callista83: Do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?

I love biography, autobiography, diaries, letters... insight on lives through narrative and particularly on artists' lives and their processes is a great curiosity of mine. Alec Guinness's memoir, My Name Escapes Me, is wonderful. I haven't read his others A Positively Final Appearance or Blessings in Disguise yet. John Guilgud's A Life in Letters is also great. I've also read Laurence Olivier's Confessions of An Actor. Like the title, they are a little more sensational. I suppose one day I should compare them to Joan Plowright's And That's Not All just to see how the stories match up. I bought Christopher Plummer's In Spite of Myself and Julie Andrew's Home for my mother and at some point I am hoping to read them myself. I understand from Sheila that Charles Grodin's It Would be So Nice if you Weren't Here and Ellen Burstyn's Lessons in Becomming Myself are great. American composer Ned Rorem made an alternate career as a writer, producing multiple volumes of memoirs and diaries that are lots of fun to read. The Paris and New York diaries from the 1950s are probably my favorites and while moving in elite circles they disclose their share of lurid secrets.

I did a lot of research on the artists of Bloomsbury at one point in my life (celebrities of their day), an easy task since they were so interested in writing about themselves and each other. Virginia Woolf has multiple volumes of letters and diaries as does her husband Leonard.

I learned tons about the development of the American theatre from reading the memoirs of John Houseman. The diary of Clifford Odets is a passionnate document of the best kind, and I loved Lee Strasberg's Dream of Passion, Harold Clurman's The Fervent Years, Arthur Miller's Timebends, and Alan Schneider's Entrances.

Kathrine Graham's Personal History is an out-of-this world life story and Oliver Sack's memoir Uncle Tungsten is fun too (assuming they count as celebrities. I certainly celebrate them).

If Meryl Streep and Geena Rowlands decide to reveal all (or even some) one day, I'll be on line to get my copies.


gautami tripathy said...

That is some list. Actually your post has made me think. Maybe I ought to read celebrity memoirs!

Here is my BTT post!

Shari said...

Sounds like some good reads there! I hadn't heard of any of them.

Ted said...

GT & Shari - I don't think that celebrity by any means guarantees that someone can write a good story (or be useful in politics) but it doesn't obviate their writing a good memoir either!

Missy B. said...

I enjoy memoirs of everyday people! I will only read a celebrity memoir if I like and admire that celebrity.

JoAnn said...

Great list - I put Katharine Graham's on my (very short) list, too.