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The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities Paperback – June 12, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395894
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The Memory of All That is a rigorous, heartfelt, often shattering history of Weber’s family and the people close to them. Making sense of family is always difficult but, for Weber, the difficulty is exacerbated because so many relatives are famous and widely written about, their stories of extramarital affairs, intimate betrayals, and falsehoods common knowledge…Weber takes advantage of her insider position to sort out lies and myths, and give readers the straight scoop on her celebrated kin. In doing so, and in using her novelist’s skills in the development of character, she also lets us see what it is really like to inherit the legacy of so many stars behaving with such astounding infidelity to the ideas of truth, marriage, and family.”
—Floyd Skloot, The Boston Globe

“Highly appealing….a book infused with the doubt that we all bring to the contemplation of those mysterious beings who birthed us, along with our certainty that few subjects are more fascinating….It’s when Ms. Weber remembers Papa that her considerable skills as a writer are most seductively on display. And it’s not just because the exasperating Kaufman is such a good subject. It’s that Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memories of childhood. As her grandmother’s lover might have put it, she’s got rhythm.”
The New York Times
The Memory of All That is less a family memoir than a family biography. Which is good because Weber’s kin are more than fascinating enough to stand on their own without embellishments of personal memory. (A-) ”
Entertainment Weekly
“Gracefully written, poignant and droll, The Memory of All That is a gifted author’s brave look back at her eccentric, lively forbears — their dealings, foibles and affairs.”
Dallas Morning News
“Weber is an accomplished novelist; she knows well how to manipulate fictional form, as any reading of her 2006 novel Triangle will readily illustrate….In The Memory of All That, Weber’s eye for detail and for the right phrase is undiminished. No, no, they can’t take that away.”
Chicago Sun-Times
"Old scandals. What fun...The core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal."
Daily News

"Weber is an elegant writer, and she can be witheringly funny."
Palm Beach Post

"To be a writer born into an illustrious and complex family is both a burden and a gift.  In THE MEMORY OF ALL THAT, Katharine Weber trains her novelist's eye and penetrating intelligence upon what may be her greatest subject: her own family's history as it stretches back, generation after fascinating generation.  Her achievement here is a literary one, to be sure--but even more than the beautiful, elegant story contained in these pages, I am in awe of the strength, tenacity and courage it took to rise up out of this fabled cast of characters and write one of the most powerful memoirs about inheritance I have ever read."
—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion

“The Memory of All That is an engaging family memoir that centers on the ardent extra-marital liaison between the author's maternal grandmother, composer Kay Swift, and her eminent colleague George Gershwin....An entertaining, often poignant book.”
—Francine du Plessix Gray, author of Them
"A deeply moving book that is resonant and richly rewarding.  Katharine Weber’s loving and insightful look at her marquee worthy family fundamentally reminds us of our own in its strangeness and complexity.  The deeply bonded relationship between her grandmother Kay Swift and lover George Gershwin is finally fully revealed with accuracy and aching poignancy.  No one has ever properly told their story, and the combination of Weber’s inside family knowledge, assiduous research, and brilliant writing make this an unforgettable and essential read."
—Michael Feinstein

“I honestly don't believe I've ever read a memoir so filled with anything like Weber’s own, fierce, detached grace. Her ability to evoke the most horrifying events while reducing the reader to helpless laughter is uncanny….An extraordinary achievement.” 
Robb Forman Dew

 “Novelist Weber mines her rich family history, hitting the mother lode of pedigreed romances and remembrances….Grandmother Kay Swift, the first female Broadway composer and George Gershwin’s longtime lover; grandpa James Paul Warburg, FDR’s economic adviser, and daddy Sidney Kaufman, serial womanizer, unconventional filmmaker, and producer of the first feature film that literally smelled, thanks to a process called Aromarama, literally walk off the pages of this captivating multigenerational saga.”
“A wry portrait of a powerful, talented, but troubled family.”
Publishers Weekly

 “Novelist Weber tells the story of her colorful family and the scandalous—but monumentally transformative—love affair between her grandmother, Kay Swift and George Gershwin….Rich details of a dazzling but painful family past fraught with betrayals, infidelities and other assorted dysfunctions…. illuminating.”
Kirkus Reviews
"A thoroughly engaging family memoir."
Library Journal

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Katharine Weber is the author of the novels True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber.

From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Katharine Weber's five highly-praised and award-winning novels have made her a book club favorite. Her sixth book, a memoir called The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, was published by Crown in July 2011 and won raves from the critics, from Ben Brantley in the New York Times ("Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memoires of childhood") to the Dallas Morning News ("gracefully written, poignant and droll"), the NY Daily News ("Old Scandals, what fun...the core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal"), and the Boston Globe (a masterful memoir of the private world of a very public family"), among others. The Broadway paperback of The Memory of All That was published in 2012.

Her most recent novel, True Confections, the story of a chocolate candy factory in crisis, was published in January 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books and was published in December 2010 in paperback by Broadway Books. Critics raved: "A great American tale" (New York Times Book Review), "Marvelous, a vividly imagined story about love, obsession and betrayal" (Boston Globe), "Katharine Weber is one of the wittiest, most stimulating novelists at work today...wonderful fun and endlessly provocative" (Chicago Tribune),"Succulently inventive" (Washington Post),"Her most delectable novel yet" (L.A. Times).

Katharine's fiction debut in print, the short story "Friend of the Family," appeared in The New Yorker in January, 1993. Her first novel, Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (of which that story was a chapter), was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1995 and was published in paperback by Picador in 1996. It will be published in a new paperback edition by Broadway Books in Summer, 2011.

She was named by Granta to the controversial list of 50 Best Young American Novelists in 1996.

Her second novel, The Music Lesson, was published by Crown Publishers, Inc. in 1999, and was published in paperback by Picador in 2000. The Music Lesson has been published in twelve foreign languages, and is being reissued in the U.S. by Broadway Books in January, 2011.

The Little Women was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2003 and by Picador in 2004. All three novels were named Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review.

Her fourth novel, Triangle, which takes up the notorious Triangle Waist company factory fire of 1911, was published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and in 2007 by Picador.

Katharine's maternal grandmother was the songwriter Kay Swift. Since Swift's death in 1993, Katharine has been a Trustee and the Administrator of the Kay Swift Memorial Trust, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of Kay Swift. This work includes the first Broadway musical with a score by a woman, "Fine and Dandy," and several popular show tunes of the era, among them "Fine and Dandy" and "Can't We Be Friends?" (

Katharine is on the staff at Star, a foundation dedicated to offering personal growth retreats in the Arizona desert. (

Katharine is the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College, a five-year appointment to teach every spring term beginning in 2013. In the past she has taught fiction writing at Connecticut College, Yale University (for eight years), and the Paris Writers Workshop. She was the Kratz Writer in Residence at Goucher College in Spring 2006, and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the graduate writing program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University for six years.

Katharine is married to the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber (author most recently of The Bauhaus Group), and they have two daughters.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Laurie R. Squire on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up this book the morning it was published...and didn't put it down `til I finished in the wee hours of the next day. Katharine Weber's latest shares the same attractive qualities of her earlier works--articulate and intelligent, yet familiar and anecdotal. She is a wonderful storyteller; this time her story is a personal one, a memoir of her family. The title, The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities was the draw for me; as a Gershwin aficionado I anticipated a much overdue portrait of a very significant person in Gershwin's personal and professional life, second only to his relationship with lyricist-brother Ira. Kay Swift, Weber's grandmother, was a musical talent in her own right (the first female composer of a Broadway show) and Gershwin's longtime (married) lover and musical confidante. I wasn't disappointed. Their story is woven in and around equally engrossing chapters about the rest of Weber's distinctive family tree, an amalgam of higher finance (the prominent Warburg-Loeb banking dynasty) and Lower East Side (her roving--in more ways than one--filmmaker father, Sidney Kaufman). In a word, this book is S'Wonderful.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By P. Rose on July 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is an unput-downable book, full of wisdom about the complexities of human life yet totally devoid of fluff or jargon. It's one of the greatest family biographies I know, up there with Geoffrey Wolff's The Duke of Deception and Vivian Gornick's Fierce Attachments. One may come to it to find out about Kay Swift and George Gershwin, but you are likely to love it, from the beginning, because of the portrait of Weber's incomparably caddish father, who took his thirteen-year-old daughter on a "vacation" and simply dumped her for a week with a ragtag film crew, who would leave his wife for months and sail off to Europe with another "Mrs. Sidney Kaufman," who was constantly telling little Kathy that if she didn't watch out, she'd grow up to be like her mother. I had just finished reading "In the Garden of Beasts," so imagine my surprise when I encountered Martha Dodd, the US Ambassador to Germany's daughter (in the Hitler era), so soon again, this time as one of the many girlfriends of the author's father! But as riveting as is the account of Sidney Kaufman's escapades, the account of Kay Swift's is up to it. Without giving anything away, I must mention as one of the great cads of all time the psychiatrist Gregory Zilboorg, who accepted as a patient not just Kay Swift, but her husband and her lover as well. Reading this book will ideally make you think of your own family saga in a different and larger way. Weber provides a model that combines extensive research, a generous spirit, and a terrific sense of humor.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a tough book to classify. Memoir or biography? Both. The first half deals with Katharine Weber's relationship with her elusive yet fame-seeking father, and so may be called a memoir. The second half is more of a biography of her grandmother. So if you've ever wanted to mix and mingle with the high society of the 30's and 40's here's your chance. Katharine Weber's family had connections to many of the rich and famous, and her grandmother, Kay Swift, had a 10-year romance with George Gershwin. Zero Mostel and Zsa Zsa Gabor make cameo appearances. The action takes place from Montana to London, and Prague, and yet the author's grip on people and events is sure, reflecting a huge amount of research. Personally, I preferred the first half of the book, where Ms Weber writes about her own close family and feelings, but as a history of her family it make compulsive reading.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
with a hole in the middle. Katharine Weber, whose work I'd never read before, has written a memoir about her family - the Swifts, Kaufmans, and Warburgs - but her memoir does not really complete the family circle by including much about her mother, Andrea Swift Warburg Kaufman. This is important because two of the lives most examined are Kathy's father - Sidney Kaufman, Andrea's husband - and Kay Swift Warburg, Kathy's maternal grandmother. Both had a profound effect on Andrea's life, causing her to drift through life and be a cipher to all who knew her. I found her to be the most interesting person in the memoir.

Weber's memoir is ostensibly about her grandmother's marriages and important affair with songwriter, George Gershwin and her father's mysterious life - months long disappearances during Kathy's childhood - and his affairs with many women. Was Sidney Kaufman really the important "player" in Hollywood as he liked to claim? Certainly Kay Swift Warburg and her husband, Jimmy, (known in musical circles as "Paul James", to disguise his Warburg-connections), were active in the songwriting and Broadway play circles.

Weber's writing is so good and so vivid that she made me want to know more about the people she writes about. I've ordered Ron Chernow's biography of the Warburg family and am now reading a biography of George Gershwin. I've also ordered Weber's book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. But the person I'd like to know more about is Andrea Warburg Kaufman. How did she survive such a whirlwind childhood, only to make such a poor marriage? How was her mothering of her son and daughter with Kaufman while in such a bad marriage with poor mothering as an example? Did Andrea ever lose the diffidence she seemed to go through life with?

I do think it's the mark of good writing for the reader to care about and be curious about a writer's characters. Weber has certainly written that kind of memoir.
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