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Fosse Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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*Starred Review* Here’s something you can’t say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon. Wasson is such a lively, engaging writer that, as he takes us through the life and career of the multi-award-winning choreographer and director Bob Fosse, we scarcely notice we’re turning the pages—until there are no more to turn. Fosse is a fascinating subject: a perfectionist who seemed determined to drive himself into an early grave. He won numerous Tony awards for his stage work before segueing to the big screen, where—in a shocking surprise—he, not the favored Francis Ford Coppola, won the Academy Award for best director in 1973 (for Cabaret). Combining keen analysis of Fosse’s stage and screen works (Wasson rightly approaches Fosse’s 1979 film All That Jazz not so much as an autobiographical story as a fantasy) with a compassionate look at Fosse’s often-tumultuous personal life, the book is everything you could want in a celebrity bio, without any of the gossipy, trashy, third-hand-rumory rubbish that makes too many biographies so painful to read. This one’s a pure joy to read, cover to cover; you read it not merely for Fosse’s story, but also for Wasson’s inventive way of telling it. If this book doesn’t turn up on some literary-awards lists, it’ll be a serious crime. --David Pitt
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2013
NPR’s Best Books of 2013
Los Angeles Times Best Seller
Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Newsday’s Top 10 Books of 2013
Los Angeles Public Library Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013
Kirkus Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013"Mr. Wasson is a smart and savvy reporter, and his book abounds with colorful firsthand tales—required reading for anyone eager to understand his brand of — to use a term that appears here constantly, and can’t be outdone — razzle-dazzle."
—Janet Maslin, New York Times"Fascinating and exhaustive biography...Mr. Wasson has taken complete control of his subject."
—Wall Street Journal
''He thought he was the best, and he thought he was terrible.'' The man in question is legendary choreographer and director Bob Fosse, whose celebrated life and career get their due in Sam Wasson's spellbinding 695-page biography, Fosse. You don't need to be a Broadway expert to enjoy this portrait of a man whose rise to power was famously fueled by insecurity. It's all here: accounts of his monstrous, masterful directing style; the explosive personal battles behind his Tony-winning triumphs; his incendiary relationship with Gwen Verdon. Wasson simply doesn't miss a thing. Give the guy a (jazz) hand. A-"
—USA Today"Thorough and lively biography."
—New Yorker, Briefly Noted"Amazingly well-written."
—New York Journal of Books"Unlike countless biographies of artists and performers, "Fosse" does not rely on dime-store psychoanalysis in explicating its subject and his flaws...Wasson, so skilled at providing a macro overview -- he seamlessly outlines the history of both the American stage and the American movie musical to better foreground Fosse's transformations of each -- has also written a book filled with dazzling aperçus."
—Newsday "Wasson's biography is richly researched and passionate, and while Fosse's film pursuits are only a part of the story, his life had a cinematic sweep."
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The reason I picked up Fosse, though, has as much to do with its author as with its subject. . . . Wasson is a canny chronicler of old Hollywood and its outsize personalities. (The cast of characters is enough to recommend the book: Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Henry Mancini, Edith Head.) More than that, he understands that style matters, and, like his subjects, he has a flair for it."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"Here's something you can't say about many celebrity biographies: at nearly 750 pages, it feels like it ends too soon . . . A pure joy to read, cover to cover."
—Booklist"Lushly researched . . . [Wasson] has amassed a mountain of data about Fosse but has sculpted it into something moving and memorable. . . . Graceful prose creates a richly detailed and poignant portrait." —Kirkus (starred review)"Deep inside this comprehensive study, Sam Wasson uses a phrase to describe the movie Cabaret: 'the bejeweling of horror.' Bob Fosse's whole life was something like that, a man who created magnificent, bejeweled art at personal cost. It's an American story, powerfully told."
— Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost"I tore through this masterful biography, loving it from beginning to end. Wasson writes with a verve ideally tuned to his subject, sparkling with wit and fresh insight. . . . This is a life lived large — and dangerously — amid cultural currents that propelled and inspired Fosse as a dancer, choreographer, and director. In Fosse, Sam Wasson energetically and authoritatively brings it all into sharp focus, with uncanny depth and perception."
— Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen
—Library Journal, STARRED review
"Sam Wasson’s Fosse is terrific in both senses of the word. It’s magnificent and frightening in equal measure, a biography so detailed and exacting that it makes you feel so close to Bob Fosse at all the major and many of the minor events of his life that you can practically smell the cigarette stink . . . Fosse is one of the best, most entertaining biographies I have ever read. . . . [Wasson's] intelligent prose flies off the page. He’s not only an impressive researcher—he interviewed more than 300 of Fosse’s friends and associates— but a wonderfully witty writer who chose every one of the book’s vast number of words with extraordinary care. And he’s got a killer sense of humor. Some sentences of this book are so damn funny that I laughed out loud." — Film Quarterly
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Top Customer Reviews
This biography effectively goes into Fosse's head and fully reveals why he was such a perfectionist, control freak and self destructive madman. His friendship with Paddy Chayefsky was absolutely fascinating as was his relationships with all the NY showbiz Illuminati, some who were friends and many who were competitors.
The author does an excellent job centering the story around Fosse's death with each chapter counting down the years toward his final embrace with Angelique, his angel of death.
A bonus is great insight into the lives of the main women in his life (other than his mother) Gwen Verdon, Anne Reinking and of course, the intensely influential burlesque strippers of his showbiz youth.
Great, highly readable biography. Highly recommended
In addition to finding Fosse's life fascinating, I was awed by Sam Wasson's writing. His sentence crafting employs the same genius and quirky energy that Bob Fosse's dances did. Somehow he manages to tell the story,warts and all, without resorting to tawdry tales that usually inform these biographies. And Bob Fosse definitely had some tawdry!
If you love and miss the Golden age of American Musical theater read this book .
But what a brilliant dancer, choreographer, director, film-maker & bon-vivant whose personal demons were responsible for his early death.
It helped me understand my own personal obsessions as a visual artist, and the book's melancholy tale of the theatre world stays with me even now.
Alas, he considered himself a complete fraud and an artistic failure, even when he became a legend of Theatre, Dance & Film.
I think Fosse was a genius and the book gives excellent and intimate insight into how he got there. If you get a chance, check out youtube for video clips of Fosse dancing in his earlier career and then watch clips from dance numbers he choreographed for movies and Broadway. Wow!
An added bonus is a look at the history of vaudeville, Broadway and films and how they all evolved and are intertwined. The size of the book should not deter you at all. Every page is like Fosse, going from deep despair to over the top "razzle dazzle"! Show Biz at it's best and worst. Highly, highly recommend!
Loving biographies feels too often like looking for the kind of high that got one addicted in the first place - elusive, frustrating, and far too often, disappointing. Of the new breed, Amanda Vaill delivers - and now - Sam Wasson.
The perfect mix of love, depth, research, personal commitment and psychological insight go into the cocktail that delivers a fully formed soul back to the page - for us to breathe in, learn from - if only to learn what not to do.
If he'd never done more than change the vocabulary of dance. If he'd never done more than create Cabaret, Lenny and All That Jazz, three films that define American "auteur" - and deliver singular artistic power - beyond almost anything created in the last fifty years. If he'd never done anything more than usher Kander and Ebb onto the world stage, knocking the phony, pristine sparkle off the idea of American glamour - in a way that allowed us to grow up and look at ourselves - like adults -
But - of course, he did all that. And Sam came to understand the demons that drove him and limited him and haunted him and - in the end - did him in. But not before he left us with a world changed by his being here. Bravo to Bob. And Bravo to Sam.