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Becoming Richard Pryor Hardcover – December 9, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, December 2014: In Becoming Richard Pryor, author Scott Saul quotes Pryor as saying, “It’s so much easier for me to talk about my life in front of two thousand people than it is one-on-one.” But on stage we only get part of the picture—and it’s in reading Saul’s well-researched and comprehensive biography that one begins to realize exactly what went into creating arguably the greatest comedian ever. Starting with his family’s origins in Peoria, Illinois—where several generations were marked by domestic violence, petty crime, and the ins and outs of running brothels—Saul traces Pryor’s early days in Greenwich Village, his inner explorations in Berkeley, and the rise of his star in Hollywood. It certainly wasn’t pretty; but it’s spellbinding at times. Particularly effective is Saul’s effort to get into Pryor’s head, which rings with authenticity and truth. – Chris Schluep
“Absorbing, incisive....With skill and insight, Saul shows how both the best and the worst of Pryor could merge into a great body of work unmatched by anyone who was ever paid to make people laugh.” (USA Today)
“The most detailed and rigorously researched work on the comic’s life and performances....Pryor was both the quintessential hipster and the vulnerable, damaged witness of his age...Becoming Richard Pryor captures these dimensions of the persona and the man behind it very well.” (Washington Post)
“Sharply observed....lays out the case that Pryor was not only a comic genius but ‘a bellwether of the great changes of postwar American life, some of which he helped incite.’...Riveting.” (TIME magazine)
“A gripping read....The only book you need on its subject.” (Sunday Times (London))
“A pop-culture masterpiece of exhaustive reporting, psychological insight and elegant writing.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Insightful and expansive, Scott Saul’s remarkable biography of the now legendary comic chronicles how a sensitive brilliant man with a hardscrabble past mined his personal life for American entertainment, revolutionizing stand-up along the way.” (Playboy, "This Winter's Best Books")
“A fascinating, exhilarating read. Saul dives deeper and comes up with more treasure than previous biographers; he deftly traces the stamp that Pryor left on American culture at one of its more impressionable moments…I didn’t want to put the book down and couldn’t wait to get back to it.” (Michael Chabon, bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Telegraph Avenue)
“Becoming Richard Pryor is a compulsively readable book that sets a new gold standard for American biography. Scott Scaul’s research is extraordinary; his writing his taut, elegant, and insightful; and he captures both the hilarity and pain that made Richard Pryor such a towering figure.” (Debby Applegate, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography and author of the forthcoming Madam: The Notorius Life and Times of Polly Adler)
“The Richard Pryor biography we’ve been waiting for.” (Deadspin)
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Richard Pryor may have been the most unlikely star in Hollywood history. Raised in his family’s brothels, he grew up an outsider to privilege. He took to the stage, originally, to escape the hard-bitten realities of his childhood, but later came to a reverberating discovery: that by plunging into the depths of his experience, he could make stand-up comedy as exhilarating and harrowing as the life he’d known. He brought that trembling vitality to Hollywood, where his movie career—Blazing Saddles, the buddy comedies with Gene Wilder, Blue Collar—flowed directly out of his spirit of creative improvisation. The major studios considered him dangerous. Audiences felt plugged directly into the socket of life.
I truly enjoyed this book. I always been a fan of Richard Pryor. The author did an good job in telling Pryor’s story from childhood until adulthood. The book was well written
It became repetitive, though: get high, perform on stage, slap around his woman, move out, move on.
This was a set pattern in his life, and in this book. It seemed very rushed towards the end, and his later life was not examined as much as his earlier life, and that was a shame.