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Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter Paperback – September 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569768188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569768181
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the beginning, Richard, not Karen, was the talented musician whose parents moved across the country for a better career. Karen dabbled in music and tagged along on gigs, but it would be years before her show-stopping voice commanded the spotlight. And that shift, when the forgotten little sister became star of the act, Schmidt argues, marked the beginning of Karen's deadly, lifelong struggle with weight. Schmidt tracks the anxieties that seem to have driven her eating disorder, including a controlling mother and the lack of a stable love life. After the failure of her first solo effort, Karen made a bid for happiness with the dashing Tom Burris that would prove short-lived; he was only interested in her money. This was one setback too many for the gifted singer, and by 1983 she was dead, at 32. The self-destructive pressures of celebrity make for a familiar narrative, but Schmidt treats Karen's death not as an inevitability, but a tragedy that built slowly. His sympathies for the star border on fawning, but the copious research and quick-moving narration make this a volume that die-hard Carpenters fans and casual listeners alike will find interesting.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[A] heart-rending biography . . . The author relates Karen’s story in writing as fluid and affectless as her singing . . . As Schmidt details Karen’s unstoppable fall, Little Girl Blue becomes one of the saddest tales in pop . . . This compassionate book gives a tortured waif the third dimension she deserved."  —New York Times Book Review



“Heartbreaking. . . . Schmidt succeeds in bringing a gifted, troubled musician to vivid life.” —People



“Told with compassion and understanding, this poignant and richly fascinating story of Karen Carpenter reads more like a novel you can’t put down than the extensively and impeccably researched biography it actually is.” —David Kaufman, author of Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door



“A fascinating, and at times harrowing, read. . . . Schmidt adds vital new information to our understanding of this contradictory and conflicted artist. . . . We know how her story ends, but Schmidt has made it as absorbing as it is deeply humane.” —Blurt



“[Schmidt’s] fresh perspective reanimates the rise and fall of an American recording icon. . . . [A] dense, fact-filled treatment, which carefully skirts sensationalism while exposing new truths in this haunting tragedy.” —Kirkus Reviews



“Very comprehensive . . . heartbreaking.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune



"The copious research and quick-moving narration make this a volume that die-hard Carpenters fans and casual listeners alike will find interesting."  —Publishers Weekly


“Like most of Karen Carpenter’s songs, this book pulls you in and triggers more emotion than you bargained for. Finally, the story of this angelic voice is told.” —Stephen Cox, author of The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane


More About the Author

Randy L. Schmidt is the author of the critically-acclaimed LITTLE GIRL BLUE: THE LIFE OF KAREN CARPENTER and compiled and edited the newly updated and expanded YESTERDAY ONCE MORE: THE CARPENTER READER. He has served as creative consultant for several television documentaries on the Carpenters, including the E! "True Hollywood Story," A&E's "Biography," and VH1's "Behind the Music." Randy teaches music in Denton, Texas.

Customer Reviews

It was an informative book with a very sad story.
Paula Powell
Kudos to Randy Schmidt for writing the difinitive biography of Karen Carpenter.
J. Kanesaw
Karen Carpenter seemed to have fame, fortune, friends, love, and family.
Jefferson S. Kent

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

233 of 239 people found the following review helpful By Blondzilla8 VINE VOICE on June 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a Carpenters fan since age eight when I could hear "Close to You" coming through my older cousin's ear piece on her transistor AM radio. Next came drum lessons in grade five. Karen was my idol and my sisters and I devoured her LPs and cassettes like food groups while learning the art of precise harmonies in the process.

So, news of this latest and wonderful biography had me champing at the bit as soon as I heard about its release.

I could not put this book down. And this did not necessarily serve my sleep well (note to self: do not expect to have a good night's sleep if you read such haunting books). It is a heart wrenching tale of heartbreak, control issues, deceit, and the complete misunderstanding of a soul so old and so sensitive that I could not get through this painfully honest biography without a lot of Kleenex.

To literally slowly kill yourself from self-starvation/anorexia nervosa is a tragedy, but when you read about WHY and HOW it happened to this one of a kind talent, you will want to go out and purchase a ouija board to contact and tell off her mother, Agnes, who was such a bitch and so insensitive and controlling that she made Joan Crawford look like Carol Brady.

Karen had no one on her side when it came to her family; all control freaks (except her pacifist father). She was shoved to the back of the line more often than not and was, despite being at the forefront of the Carpenters with that gorgeous voice, placed and kept firmly in the shadow of her older brother, Richard ("The talented one," says Agnes). Mom would see to that.

We find out in her sad story, however, that Karen DID have some very trusted and supportive friends and I am so happy that we are FINALLY hearing their side of the story.
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128 of 134 people found the following review helpful By kone TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having previously read Ray Coleman's authorized biography on The Carpenters, The Carpenters: The Untold Story : An Authorized Biography, I came away with the sense there was much much more to the story of Karen Carpenter that was not being told. Previous to Coleman's book, there was the made for tv movie "The Karen Carpenter Story", which obviously was heavily edited by the Carpenter family. Neither gave conclusive, definitive reasons why America's musical sweetheart, Karen Carpenter, died of complications due to anorexia at the young age of 32 in 1983. This thoroughly detailed book by Randy Schmidt unveils the long-hidden reasons behind Karen Carpenter's untimely death. Schmidt wrote this book without interference from Richard Carpenter, so he has complete journalistic freedom to tell the entire story. Richard Carpenter does not contribute to this book (no comments, no interviews), and made no attempt to thwart Mr. Schmidt or censor him in any way. The painful truth of Karen Carpenter is told here.

In the foreward, Mr. Schmidt explains how previous attempts to tell the Karen Carpenter story were stymied by the Carpenter family, specifically Richard Carpenter, in an attempt to subdue an unfavorable light on Karen's mother, Agnes. Understandibly, Mr. Carpenter was protecting his mother, and he disagrees with the view that Agnes Carpenter was a dominant factor in Karen's anorexia. Richard suggests that Karen's anorexia was perhaps genetic in origin, and it would have surfaced whether Karen was a music superstar or "housewife". Perhaps this is true. Karen's anorexia seems to begin when she was asked to leave her drums and front the group by becoming the lead singer.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By eclectictastes on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
During their heyday from 1970 - 1976, the Carpenters, or more specifically their image, were often derided as bland, vanilla and uninteresting. Many people who considered themselves hip in the 70s would rarely admit to owning a Carpenters record or even liking them (considering the millions of records sold, many of those who publicly dismissed the group probably had their albums hidden at home.)

But Karen Carpenter's sudden and unexpected death at the age of 32 in 1983 belatedly let the world know that the Carpenters had a much more complicated story than the wholesome images presented by press releases and interviews had let on. As a result, many critics began to revise their opinions about the group's work. Ray Coleman's 1994 authorized biography offered some insights into the Carpenter story as it revealed some criticism of both Richard and mother Agnes, who even through editing came across to readers as difficult. But many complained that the family's participation in Coleman's book hindered the author from telling Karen's full story.

In the new book, Little Girl Blue, Randy Schmidt appears to benefit from Richard's refusal to work with him. That, coupled with the death of Agnes in 1996, seems to have allowed Carpenter associates to speak more freely about their observations of the family. Schmidt also manages to provide perspectives of people missing from Coleman's book. Although she has a relatively small role in the book, I was fascinated that Schmidt interviewed Florine Elie, the family's longtime housekeeper.

As a result of these new interviews, readers get a fuller (and sadder) understanding of Karen. Twenty-seven years after her death, she comes across as a much more complex person than was represented during her lifetime.
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