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Fosse Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013
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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-"
—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."
—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
—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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great Biography on a Broadway Legend and Superb Talent. Read and Enjoy....I didPublished 11 days ago by The Flying Scot !
If you love Fosse, you'll love this. In my opinion the greatest. choreographer ever. Not the greatest person, but he is great. Great reading interesting man. I highly recommend.Published 2 months ago by Robin the Hockey Fan
If you are a fan of minutia, you I'll love Fossie. This biography contains ALL you could ever want to know about this fascinatingly obsessed and obsessive giant of dance and... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is the best biography I have ever read. The subject, Bob Fosse, is covered completely and objectively. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Stephen J. Murphy
Essential for any fan, it is exhaustive, and paints a full picture of the man and the myth. It will take you awhile to get through, but you won't regret it.Published 4 months ago by K. Demaree
Exhaustive and exhausting. Impressive research in unearthing everything about this interesting man.
At times it just became too much, but then I was interested in learning... Read more
It got a little long winded but oh the other hand it was thorough and well organized. I now know a LOT more about Bob Fosse and Broadway shows in general.Published 6 months ago by Tracy Walvatne
I debated a lot whether or not to give it 4 stars or 3. I liked the book, but it was waaaaay too long. It could have been cut at least by a couple of hundred pages. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jo Flowers