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The Memory of All That [Kindle Edition]

Katharine Weber
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The Memory of All That is Katharine Weber’s memoir of her extraordinary family. 

Her maternal grandmother, Kay Swift, was known both for her own music (she was the first woman to compose the score to a hit Broadway show, Fine and Dandy) and for her ten-year romance with George Gershwin. Their love affair began during Swift’s marriage to James Paul Warburg, the multitalented banker and economist who advised (and feuded with) FDR. Weber creates an intriguing and intimate group portrait of the renowned Warburg family, from her great-great-uncle, the eccentric art historian Aby Warburg, whose madness inspired modern theories of iconography, to her great-grandfather Paul M. Warburg, the architect of the Federal Reserve System whose unheeded warnings about the stock-market crash of 1929 made him “the Cassandra of Wall Street.” 

Her mother, Andrea Swift Warburg, married Sidney Kaufman, but their unlikely union, Weber believes, was a direct consequence of George Gershwin’s looming presence in the Warburg family. A notorious womanizer, Weber’s father was a peripatetic filmmaker who made propaganda and training films for the OSS during World War II before producing the first movie with smells, the regrettable flop that was AromaRama. He was as much an enigma to his daughter as he was to the FBI, which had him under surveillance for more than forty years, and even noted Katharine’s birth in a memo to J. Edgar Hoover.

Colorful, evocative, insightful, and very funny, The Memory of All That is an enthralling look at a tremendously influential—and highly eccentric—family, as well as a consideration of how their stories, with their myriad layers of truth and fiction, have both provoked and influenced one of our most prodigiously gifted writers.

Editorial Reviews


 "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

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3937 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 030739588X
  • Publisher: Crown (July 19, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WNCG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,390 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars S'Wonderful! 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the best family biography July 22, 2011
By P. Rose
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
4.0 out of 5 stars The roaring 40's brought to heel July 25, 2011
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written memoir... 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read and a saucy, terrifically talented woman's story
Such a wonderful biography; really woke me up to this wonderfully creative woman and the luminaries who touched her life - especially her relationship with George Gershwin. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. C. Pernice
1.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Up Mess
This book's title is very deceiving. It is not a biography with a chronological time line that ties in the families, it is a mixed up mess that starts out with the author talking... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Pam Gersh
1.0 out of 5 stars Lucky to get one star
Poor content - Gershwin is only a marginal character. No continuity to story. Only two of eight book club members bothered to finish this book.
Published 22 months ago by thelma n ferguson
3.0 out of 5 stars The Memory of it all
Thought this an interesting book...lots of characters to try to keep era that must have been very exciting in many ways, all kinds of fascinating people. Read more
Published 22 months ago by L.R. McFadden
2.0 out of 5 stars Disorganized and Many Who Cares Characters
If you want to read about George Gershwin, pick books about him. He's only in about 1/8 of this book. Kay Swift is about a third of it. Read more
Published on September 3, 2012 by Mariane Matera
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story that Needs Editing
The Memory of All That by Katherine Weber was disappointing. It was really split into two stories.

The first half was about Katherine's childhood and her family and the... Read more
Published on August 13, 2012 by C. Wong
3.0 out of 5 stars Not A Favorite
The book is nicely written and I have nothing against the author, and fortunately she doesn't seem to have acquired many of the traits her forebearers did--but I just did not like... Read more
Published on October 24, 2011 by So. Calif book reader
3.0 out of 5 stars 2 books for price of one
In the first book you read a tirade from a daughter to a suspiciously bad set of parents which leaves you saying .. Read more
Published on September 14, 2011 by Neil D. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars Insider's Look at famous family
Kay Swift, composer of the musical "Fine and Dandy" was married to an influential member of the famous Warburg banking family and the mother of three little girls, when she met and... Read more
Published on August 27, 2011 by Mary Verdick
5.0 out of 5 stars 'S Wonderful! A must read for all music-lovers
A totally new perspective on the life and loves of George Gershwin emerges from the pages of Weber's beautiful memoir of her parents' bitter marriage and the great love affair of... Read more
Published on August 17, 2011 by Filumena
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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.

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