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Fosse Hardcover – November 5, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547553293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547553290
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Here’s something you can’t say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon. Wasson is such a lively, engaging writer that, as he takes us through the life and career of the multi-award-winning choreographer and director Bob Fosse, we scarcely notice we’re turning the pages—until there are no more to turn. Fosse is a fascinating subject: a perfectionist who seemed determined to drive himself into an early grave. He won numerous Tony awards for his stage work before segueing to the big screen, where—in a shocking surprise—he, not the favored Francis Ford Coppola, won the Academy Award for best director in 1973 (for Cabaret). Combining keen analysis of Fosse’s stage and screen works (Wasson rightly approaches Fosse’s 1979 film All That Jazz not so much as an autobiographical story as a fantasy) with a compassionate look at Fosse’s often-tumultuous personal life, the book is everything you could want in a celebrity bio, without any of the gossipy, trashy, third-hand-rumory rubbish that makes too many biographies so painful to read. This one’s a pure joy to read, cover to cover; you read it not merely for Fosse’s story, but also for Wasson’s inventive way of telling it. If this book doesn’t turn up on some literary-awards lists, it’ll be a serious crime. --David Pitt

Review

Chicago Tribune Best Books of 2013
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013
NPR’s Best Books of 2013
Los Angeles Times Best Seller
Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Newsday’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Los Angeles Public Library Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013
Kirkus Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013

"Mr. Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand tales—required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of — to use a term that appears here constantly, and can’t be outdone — razzle-dazzle."
—Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Fascinating and exhaustive biography...Mr. Wasson has taken complete control of his subject."
Wall Street Journal

'He thought he was the best, and he thought he was terrible.' The man in question is legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse, whose celebrated life and career get their due in Sam Wasson's spellbinding 695-page biography, Fosse. You don't need to be a Broadway expert to enjoy this portrait of a man whose rise to power was famously fueled by insecurity. It's all here: accounts of his monstrous, masterful directing style; the explosive personal battles behind his Tony-winning triumphs; his incendiary relationship with Gwen Verdon. Wasson simply doesn't miss a thing. Give the guy a (jazz) hand. A-"
Entertainment Weekly

"Impeccably researched."
Vanity Fair

"The only thing that could have been better than Sam Wasson's page-turning, comprehensively rendered biography of choreographer-director Bob Fosse would have been Fosse's own memoir...Wasson's own narrative style has a jazzy, discursive and relentless energy well aligned with its subject."
USA Today

"Thorough and lively biography."
New Yorker, Briefly Noted

"Amazingly well-written."
New York Journal of Books

"Unlike countless biographies of artists and performers, "Fosse" does not rely on dime-store psychoanalysis in explicating its subject and his flaws...Wasson, so skilled at providing a macro overview -- he seamlessly outlines the history of both the American stage and the American movie musical to better foreground Fosse's transformations of each -- has also written a book filled with dazzling aperçus."
Newsday

"Wasson's biography is richly researched and passionate, and while Fosse's film pursuits are only a part of the story, his life had a cinematic sweep."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The reason I picked up Fosse, though, has as much to do with its author as with its subject. . . . Wasson is a canny chronicler of old Hollywood and its outsize personalities. (The cast of characters is enough to recommend the book: Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Henry Mancini, Edith Head.) More than that, he understands that style matters, and, like his subjects, he has a flair for it."
New Yorker

"Definitive."
Hollywood Reporter

"Scintillating . . . There's an enormous amount of scholarship here, yet the story never drags, so adroitly does [Wasson] blend his material into a fluent narrative around evocative scenes where character emerges novelistically."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Here's something you can't say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon . . . A pure joy to read, cover to cover."
Booklist

"Lushly researched . . . [Wasson] has amassed a mountain of data about Fosse but has sculpted it into something moving and memorable. . . . Graceful prose creates a richly detailed and poignant portrait." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Deep inside this comprehensive study, Sam Wasson uses a phrase to describe the movie Cabaret: 'the bejeweling of horror.' Bob Fosse's whole life was something like that, a man who created magnificent, bejeweled art at personal cost. It's an American story, powerfully told."
— Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost

"I tore through this masterful biography, loving it from beginning to end. Wasson writes with a verve ideally tuned to his subject, sparkling with wit and fresh insight. . . . This is a life lived large — and dangerously — amid cultural currents that propelled and inspired Fosse as a dancer, choreographer, and director. In Fosse, Sam Wasson energetically and authoritatively brings it all into sharp focus, with uncanny depth and perception."
— Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen

"Hard work is evident in the intricate depiction of a complicated, brilliant man...A thoroughly researched and fascinating look at Fosse, viewed through the relationships and work that defined him. Highly recommended for theater or movie aficionados, aspiring performers, and fans of engrossing biography."
—Library Journal, STARRED review

"Sam Wasson’s Fosse is terrific in both senses of the word. It’s magnificent and frightening in equal measure, a biography so detailed and exacting that it makes you feel so close to Bob Fosse at all the major and many of the minor events of his life that you can practically smell the cigarette stink . . . Fosse is one of the best, most entertaining biographies I have ever read. . . . [Wasson's] intelligent prose flies off the page. He’s not only an impressive researcher—he interviewed more than 300 of Fosse’s friends and associates— but a wonderfully witty writer who chose every one of the book’s vast number of words with extraordinary care. And he’s got a killer sense of humor. Some sentences of this book are so damn funny that I laughed out loud." — Film Quarterly


More About the Author

SAM WASSON is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M .: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman" and two works of film criticism. His latest book is "Fosse," a full-scale biography of the legendary director-choreographer. You can visit Sam at www.samwasson.com

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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book for those interested in dance and theater, and of course for Fosse fans.
Malfoyfan
Although he wasn't always the nicest person, this book goes a very long way towards showing why he was such a compelling personality.
Peter Merz
Sam Wasson manages to pull off a literary pas de deux writing exactly like Bob Fosse danced and choreographed.
Glae R. Egoville

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Richardson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This isn't Fosse 101 , it's the whole story.

Sam Wasson is an excellent writer and not only covers every aspect of Bob Fosse's colorful and often tragically sad life, but digs in deep and keeps his reader enthralled with all of the details one could only glean from such a detailed book.

Where to start? How about Fosse's difficult childhood where his father left the family when little Bobby was in his formative years. Sad (and not surprising) to say that this loss paved the way for the angst, drive, and abuse (to himself and the people in his life - not just the women), all of which fueled the genius of this talented dancer, choreographer, and director.

This book is so dense that I found myself jumping around to the chapters that interested me the most i.e. his lifetime love affair with Gwen Verdon (Wasson gives us more than a glimpse about Gwen and her story, which is fascinating if you're a fan, and how she stuck with Fosse til (literally) the very end. The scads of other women in his life including Ann Reinking, et al, all play a part in Fosse's search for something he could honestly never find: happiness. His self-loathing and ongoing depression conquered all, but never love.

As a reader, I was reminded of just how MANY amazing films and shows this man headed up. This book is so interesting if you are a fan or Broadway and film."Damn Yankees" .."Pippin"... "Liza with a Z"... "The Pajama Game" ... "Kiss Me Kate"... Fosse was without a doubt, the "Zelig" of both worlds.

I was so pleased that Sam Wasson's writing kept me invested in the story of this man. Too many biographies lately are so poorly written and just a hodge-podge of previous attempts of getting the whole story with more numeric citations than a college algebra book.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By The Movie Man VINE VOICE on October 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have always loved the work of Bob Fosse, have seen his choreography and performances in movies, and was fortunate to see a number of his later productions on Broadway, so I was eager to read this new biography of the complex artist.

The best part of the book covers Fosse's early years as a dancer in burlesque clubs and later as a dancer at MGM and member of that company's roster of contract players. Wasson chronicles Fosse's Broadway work and how his ideas eventually altered dance in musical theatre and on film. The book goes into how Fosse developed his now famous trademarks of the open, fluttering hands, sharp shoulder shrugs, intricate work with hats, and freeze positions.

Throughout the biography are references to people Fosse admired and/or worked with, including Carol Haney, Fred Astaire, Gwen Verdon, Liza Minnelli, Ann Miller, Bobby Van, Shirley MacLaine, and Dustin Hoffman. With such a "supporting cast" of personalities, the biography takes on a real back-stage, inner circle feel.

A previous Fosse bio, Martin Gottfried's "All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse," contained interviews from many individuals now no longer with us. Wasson builds on that work, going into rich detail about one of the most complicated, fascinating show biz personalities of the latter half of the 20th century.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By G. Schneider VINE VOICE on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a long book about a short man who cast a long shadow in a short lifetime. Bob Fosse single-handedly changed the way people dance on Broadway and in the movies. Through his major blockbuster accomplishments -- PAJAMA GAME, DAMN YANKEES, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, CABARET, SWEET CHARITY, CHICAGO, PIPPIN -- and others, he left his mark in the world of dance and the musical as we know it. True, he fell back on certain tricks that over the years have become clichés, but clichés come about only through their original brilliance.

Sam Wasson's incredibly well-researched biography of this man, while perhaps overlong, never fails to enlighten. I knew many of Fosse's shows, having been fortunate enough to become aware of Broadway at the same time he was at his peak. Thus I was able to see many of his shows in their original productions. They're shows I still listen to, to this day. I have many of his movies on DVD and watch them from time to time. But until I read this book, I had no knowledge of the man behind all those dances and shows.

He had a very sad beginning -- a distant father, a mother who seemingly let him do whatever he wanted. I mean, what kind of mother would allow a teenage son to work in burlesque theaters where strippers would molest him? These early events not only colored his psyche but helped contribute to his artistic output. We all are the sum total of our lives. Not all of us, though, can turn those formative experiences, good and bad, into something that will bring pleasure to millions of people, well beyond the end of our own physical existence. Fortunately for all of us and for generations to come, Bob Fosse was one of those who could and did.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was mesmerized by this stunning book, so much so that it took time for me to absorb its full impact before I felt ready to review it. Author Sam Wasson took on a formidable task when he decided to research someone as complex, tormented, and talented as Bob Fosse. The result is a book that is a contender for the definitive work on the man.

This biography starts with a party (paid for by Fosse) designed to gather together all those who knew and (hopefully) loved him. The event? A celebration of his life, a chance to share memories . It was a party that took place after his death.

True to Fosse's attention to every aspect of a performance, each table was set with a miniature black derby, a tiny wand, and a box that emitted cheers and applause when opened. Even in death Fosse seemed determined to set the sate for a memorable evening. And it certainly exceeded Fosse's expectations. He thought less than a hundred would show up. Instead, the party was standing room only.

After that compelling opening, Wasson never loses pace. He goes back to Fosse's childhood and his family - his protective mother, and the father who seemed so ordinary and bland to "Bobby." Foss started dancing affter his sister, Patsy, decided to drop out of dance class. He took her place and found that he loved performing.

But it took awhile - and some tawdry detours - before Fosse found success. Wasson reveals how Fosse's life left him with permanent doubts and insecurities, even when he started to find success. Performing in sleazy venues left him with a style, defined well by Wasson when he wrote "Elegance was only half of the equation. Filth was the other half."

Tthere is no question that Fosse kept pushing the boundaries when it came to sexuality in his choreography.
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