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Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany Hardcover – November 22, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sondheim is a national treasure, a giant in the world of musical theater who changed the structure and sound of the form in 20th-century masterpieces. Speaking of heaven, though, here's Look, I Made a Hat, the second part of Sondheim's two-volume collection of lyrics, this one spanning 1981-2011, with additional bits and pieces. Talmudically thorough and devilishly diverting with what the author refers to as ‘attendant comments, amplifications, dogmas, harangues, digressions, anecdotes, and miscellany,’ the book is divine. It's also even more magnanimously authoritative than the first book. The handsomely designed book, like the first volume, contains illuminating reproductions of pages from the author's beloved legal pads on which he works out rhyme schemes, as well as annotated scripts and pages of musical notations. And the second volume is brimming — a word Sondheim would probably dismiss as ‘infelicitous’ — with precise, vigorous, instructive, sharp-tongued, and often very funny comments. Look, I Made a Hat, together with Finishing the Hat, makes an enormously satisfying journal by one of the great theatrical minds of our time, a guide and touchstone for who knows how many future great theatrical minds. A” —Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
 
“While the book technically covers Mr. Sondheim’s output from 1981 to the present, aficionados will delight in all the bits and bobs from early in his career that Mr. Sondheim didn’t make room for in the first volume . . . The extensive miscellany also includes a drawerful of lyrics Mr. Sondheim wrote as birthday gifts for friends like Harold Prince, Mary Rodgers and Leonard Bernstein. One of the choicest pleasures of the first volume was in Mr. Sondheim’s sharp-minded analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of musical theater lyricists from the past. He’s covered most of that territory already, so the new book features essays on ‘Awards and Their Uselessness’ and ‘Critics and Their Uses’ — savory reading.” —Charles Isherwood, New York Times

About the Author

Stephen Sondheim has written award-winning music and lyrics for theater, film and television. He is also the coauthor of the film The Last of Sheila and the play Getting Away with Murder. Sondheim is on the council of the Dramatists Guild of America, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; F First Edition edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307593412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593412
  • ASIN: 030759341X
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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As always, Mr. Sondheim fascinates.
David T. Howard
There's one more thing about this second volume that, in some ways, tops the first book for me.
Susan Tunis
Stephen Sondheim is my favorite Broadway composer.
A Dog

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 63 people found the following review helpful By AC Willment on November 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Sondheim fan (though not as monomaniacally worshipful as some) I have positive but not unmixed feelings about this book, as I did about the previous volume, Finishing the Hat. Overall I'd highly recommend both, in fact think they are invaluable for anyone interested at all in American musical theatre. But to the old expression that children, law, and sausage are three things one should not watch being made, I might add a fourth: art. As with the first book, I sometimes shook my head in dismay and wonderment, asking myself, "was that REALLY what you were thinking when you wrote ...?" I was so disappointed to find that the wittiest line in West Side Story was not an intentional play on words, but a compromise because SS couldn't drop an f-bomb. ("Krup you" is witty. The f-bomb wouldn't even have been funny.) The letdown in this volume was to find that the shooting-gallery setting in Assassins (my favourite of his works) was in the source material, not Sondheim's invention. In sum, if you approach the book believing that Sondheim really is God, and that art springs whole and perfect like Athena from Zeus's brow, expect to be disillusioned. Art is work, and work is often drudgery. (If you have ever even tried to write, though, you'll smile wryly and often laugh out loud.)

Buy this book especially for the section on Wise Guys/Bounce/Road Show. The Mizners and Sondheim were like Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar: He just couldn't quit them. This lengthy section is a great detailed case study of how a musical gets put together, taken apart, put together again. Theatre is a collaborative art, perhaps the ultimate collaborative art, and collaboration invariably involves compromises, with other artists, with the material, with the audience.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Damien Slattery on December 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This second (and final) volume sees Sondheim amend some of the omissions in his last book, and of course is a study of his lyrical contributions from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to his most recent ROAD SHOW, with a litany of attendant side-notes that enhance and reveal his craft.

Other reviewers had noted that the greater part of this book examines the evolving developments of his WISE GUYS/BOUNCE/ROAD SHOW odyssey and this is devoid of any criticism of collaborators - a noble feat, considering the public spats and litigation that flowered this particular theatrical effort.

The essays in this book are less frequent than before, and his wonderful perceptions of the theatrical lyricists that colored his last endeavor are reduced to two minor articles in brief overview of some of the lesser-known practitioners like John La Touche and Hugh Martin. I could have done with more of these, as Sondheim has a natural facility for criticism. Other essays detail his views of his musical revivals and the tinkering that theatrical directors bring to them. "Critics and Their Uses" is a measured article that is less blasting than expected, considering the barrage of attack that he has been subjected to over the years. As the author is the winner of an Oscar, countless Tony awards and more significant achievements like the Pulitzer Prize, we are presented with a good and balanced article on the merit (or lack thereof) of winning and worth.

Some of the more obscure lyrics that Sondheim has written for friends and aborted projects are documented, and as the accompanying music is unknown, the reader has a chance to guess the tunes dictated by Sondheim's rhythmical meters and hear their own inner music.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In terms of structure this second volume of Stephen Sondheim's collected lyrics is much like his first: after a one-paragraph summary of the show and an introductory note on its development from a concept to a full production, we get the lyrics, including cut songs and alternate versions, surrounded by just enough plot summary that the songs make sense and interspersed with annotations on the logic behind the songs, the stories behind them, the successes and failures (in Sondheim's eyes) of a line, a verse, a whole lyric. Short essays on general musical-theater themes appear in boxouts at intervals throughout. A few photos, all black-and-white, are nice enough but pale in comparison to the other images: reduced pages that show the original handwritten workings for various songs, with alternate readings crowding each other out. They aren't always fully legible, but the general insight into the evolution of a song is invaluable. On a larger level, the annotations and essays reveal aspects of the construction of a musical that even devotees of the form might not have considered. Sondheim's non-fiction voice, incisive, witty, and self-deprecating, is always entertaining.

What sets Look, I Made a Hat apart from volume one, Finishing the Hat, is that the included content is a little different. Where the earlier book featured thirteen full shows, including early classics like Gypsy and the extraordinary successes of the 1970s, this one covers only five.
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Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany + Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes + Sondheim: The Birthday Concert
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