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Cosby: His Life and Times Hardcover – September 16, 2014

3.1 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Woody Allen famously said that only creators of serious works get to “sit at the grown-ups’ table.” Comedians, in his self-loathing view, were childish, lesser, not to be respected. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of Mark Whitaker’s Cosby is how forcefully it disproves that notion. According to this detailed and generous account, Bill Cosby, for all his goofy faces, physical comedy, and earnest philosophizing, has done more to change cultural attitudes than just about any “serious” actor ever could. Whether at a Greenwich Village club that also showcased Bob Dylan, or on the beloved 1960s TV show, I Spy, or on his wildly successful eponymous sitcom (1984-92), Bill Cosby became what Whitaker calls entertainment’s Jackie Robinson, smashing racial barriers, teaching hard truths to the black community, leading the way. (Comics as diverse as Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld have acknowledged their debt to Cosby.) Whitaker dutifully takes us through Cosby’s life, from his youth in the Philadelphia projects, through his years at Temple University on a track scholarship, to unimaginable financial success and fame, to the tragic death of his only son and the complications of his 50+ year marriage to the elegant and stalwart Camille Cosby. But if some of the less savory parts of his history—the alleged womanizing and perfectionist temper tantrums—are a bit glossed over, the portrait that emerges here is of a guy who has worked tirelessly and earnestly to change the race conversation in this country, one silly bit at a time. – Sara Nelson

Review

“A smart, revealing biography of an iconic American funnyman. . . . A fascinating look at a complicated genius.” (People)

“Whitaker’s wonderfully thorough biography of America’s most accom­plished comedian provides context and depth as he analyzes Bill Cosby’s work.” (New York Times Book Review)

Fluid, admiring, packed with detail and anecdotes.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Invaluable . . . Whitaker makes a convincing argument that issues of race and politics have preoccupied Cosby throughout his life.” (New Yorker)

“Whitaker’s clear-eyed, fair-minded and deftly written book takes up all the momentous stops of Cosby’s life’s journey . . . by allowing us to see Cosby’s tumultuous life in full, Whitaker’s book makes it possible to imagine Bill Cosby being regarded as one of the first prophets of what optimists of all colors believe will someday be a “post-racial America.” (USA TODAY)

“Absorbing . . . makes a persuasive case for Cosby as a groundbreaking comic and a quiet but far-ranging pioneer of black advancement.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Readable, thoughtful life of the brilliant comedian and . . . an eye-opening book and a pleasure to read.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Provides an in-depth look at the triumphs and tragedies of a man who has kept America laughing for decades.” (New York Daily News)

“This is a compelling look at a man who has had a major impact on American race relations and television and whose “Cosby effect” helped prime the nation for its first black president.” (Booklist (starred review))

“An insightful, well-researched exploration . . . a generous portrayal of a complicated yet ultimately compassionate man.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Editor’s Picks (Ebony)

“Written with the entertainer’s cooperation, it is admiring but not fawning, honest but not lancing, with a narrative drive that matches the soaring arc of Cosby’s career . . . [Whitaker] has a masterly command of detail . . . a must-read for the comedian’s fans, and a book that will reward anyone interested in comedy, television or the wellsprings of popular culture.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“A solid, well-researched reminder of Cosby’s impact on the pop-culture landscape.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Cosby: His Life and Times tells a quintessentially American tale of adversity and triumph, influence, betrayal and—yes—lots and lots of laughter.” (Boston Globe)

“The book is at its strongest when the author puts Cosby’s comedy and to education into a broad social and cultural context.” (Washington Post)

“The biography examines the non-comedic side of Bill Cosby, and features interviews with 60 of his closest friends and associates. The author calls Cosby ‘entertainment’s Jackie Robinson, smashing racial barriers and teaching hard truths to the black community.’” (Sacramento Bee)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 16, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145169797X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451697971
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There couldn't be a worse biographer than Mark Whitaker, a pseudo-journalist so immune to the truth that were he writing about Hitler, he would have left out World War II. Anything you know about the character of Cosby, or the character of Whitaker, for that matter, you won't find out from the book because no matter how many women swear that Cosby drugs and rapes them, Whitaker doesn't see the need to investigate, or even mention it. .
Wrote David Carr in The Times "Whitaker...did not find room in his almost-500-page biography...to address the accusations that Mr. Cosby had assaulted numerous women/"
To which Whitaker replied on Twitter "I was wrong to not deal with the sexual assault charges against Cosby and pursue them more aggressively." False. He didn't pursue them at all. Wrote not a word.
Don't waste a dime on this worthless whitewash. Whitaker couldn't report his way out of a paper bag.
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By Keir on November 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
How can a 544 page biography be taken seriously if it ignores the fact that 13 women accused the subject of drugging and raping them? By ignores, I mean it makes no mention of this at all, in any way- as if Cosby had made no mention of it, that no part of the media ever referred to it, that Cosby himself did not settle out of court by paying untold millions to keep it quiet. This is nothing more than powder-puff writing one expects from old-time Hollywood campaigns.Whitaker was Executive Vice President and managing editor for CNN Worldwide, for God's sake. What was his motivation in writing such a hagiography if he was uninterested in the truth? Disgusting.
[...]
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Format: Hardcover
The author, Mark Whitaker, now not only admits that he purposefully left out the rape and other sexual crime accusations against Cosby, but broke journalistic practice by not even bothering to investigate any of the claims. So this book is meaningless. Wait for the book that tells the full story of this complicated and deeply terrible man who caused immense suffering to women. and then laughed about it.
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Format: Hardcover
In a fair world, this book belongs on the same shelf as Jerry Sandusky's "Touched." And with the way things are going, with a new victim coming forward each day (as of the writing of this review on 11-20, there are now 6 victims who have put their names out there), that very well may be the case.

Mark Whitaker is deplorable on every level in his presentation; the mention of the affairs and other "critical" aspects of the book were clearly greenlit by the Cosby press team who got final cut. This biography is as legitimate and true as a supposed "behind the scenes" history of the Disney corporation, authorized by Disney, and being sold at Disney gift shops. No, that's being unfair--this book is far worse than a sanitized stocking stuffer picked up in a gift shop. The allegations of pathological drugging, molestation, and serial rapes over four or five decades are completely absent here. A total whitewash.

Mark would have gotten away with it too, with perhaps nothing more damning for him than a brief footnote in a Salon article a few years down the road about the omissions of the rape allegations--had it not been for social media, which is beyond the Cosby PR machine's manipulations and control.

I wonder if Mark squirmed and groveled like the AP interviewer while the camera still rolled during the infamous shoot where Cosby demands they "scuttle" the very mention of the allegations at the tail end of the interview? No, he probably did not--I am being too fair to the author. He probably never even brought the 2006 settled lawsuit up in Cosby's presence. Mark's a media lifer... he knows the game. He plays by the rules. Unfortunately for him, the public has wised up, no thanks to the media machine that protected Cosby and demonized and dismissed his victims all these years.

Sleep well at night, Mark?
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By Sharon on November 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed the reading of this book, until I realized upon completion that there was absolutely NO mention of the allegations of Cosby's predatory sexual behavior, many of which had surfaced well before the author completed this work and his research would have surfaced. Based on the author's own comments, he managed to eventually gain Cosby's cooperation and support in this project. My assumption is that Whitaker traded full, honest disclosure for Cosby's endorsement.
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By Tina on November 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Complete cowardice, both man and author. The myth without the "man" - the myth without the fundamental story of who Cosby is: a serial rapist. What a pointless ass-kicking exercise, all done for the money. Whitaker, you suck.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I don't even want to finish it. Now I realize at the exact times I am reading about in his life he was raping women. Disgusting individual. Here is is telling young black men to pull their pants up, and he is drugging and pulling down the pants of innocent women.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This selective and worshipful account of Cosby's life is destined to be forgotten; it's already been dismissed. There's some insight into the roots of Cosby's comedy, but the serial rape / sexual assault allegations -- which have circulated for years -- are never mentioned once. Whittaker's determination to canonize his subject ironically spoils the whole effort. Writing a life of Cosby without tackling the charges against him of rape and abuse is like writing about Nixon without touching Watergate, or writing a history of Pan Am without mentioning Lockerbie. It's an unforgivable lapse that marginalizes the work.
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