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How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great Hardcover – April 17, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Katharine Hepburn, who would have turned 100 in May this year, was known for doing things her own way. Her choices were famously unconventional—rejecting family life in favor of her career, living as Spencer Tracy's mistress for decades, wearing slacks instead of skirts. Convinced there are lessons here for modern women, journalist and novelist Karbo (Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me) decided to try to figure out how Hepburn made it all work. For instance, while Hepburn rejected marriage, perhaps she got everything she really wanted (love and companionship) without the baggage she didn't want (fights over doing the laundry or cooking dinner). Karbo acknowledges "you don't always have to know what you're getting into in order to succeed"; Hepburn knew that to "go forward blindly" often works just as well. Also, Hepburn found denial worked just fine, allowing her to ignore early criticism that she couldn't act or that she had a terrible voice. Karbo presents all this heterodox advice with great humor, but there's a point she's making to sister Gen-Xers: Hepburn broke all the rules women were supposed to follow and still had a fabulous life. (May)
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About the Author

Karen Karbo is the author of three novels, two works of nonfiction, and a memoir, all of which were named New York Times Notable Books. The Stuff of Life was a People Critic's Choice, a selection of the Satellite Sisters Radio Book Club, and winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction. A past winner of the General Electric Young Writer Award, Karen is in addition the recipient of an NEA grant. Her essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Redbook, Elle, Vogue, Esquire, the New Republic, and Self. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (May 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913517
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913516
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAME on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As I was looking at the biographies section of my local independent bookstore, I noticed this compact book snuggled between much larger books about two screen icons who share the same last name, Audrey and Katharine Hepburn. Given the provocative title, I wanted to venture a guess as to which Hepburn the author was talking about since both women have inspired various levels of imitation and adoration even after their respective deaths. As I suspected, the book turns out to be about Kate on the not-so-coincidental occasion of her centenary. However, author Karen Karbo is not really examining the legendary actress's life in detail but rather taking a more cursory look at the cues in her life and memorable quotes that helped shape her enduring persona. Hepburn obviously lived life on her own terms, and Karbo sets out to define what the guiding principles were behind the actress's 93-year-old life.

Toward that end, the author does a reasonably entertaining job of presenting the Hepburn philosophy, steeped as it is in self-mythologizing, but there is nothing revelatory here that would surprise fans. It's common knowledge that the woman was a difficult personality with a wealth of idiosyncrasies. At the same time, she continues to be a beloved icon for her unmovable sense of self and her non-conformist mindset just as much for her enduring career. Karbo's treatment reads a bit like a manifesto, which I'm sure is intentional, but without the cumulative context of Hepburn's life events, there is a lack of resonance to the life lessons presented.
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By bt on April 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I looked forward to reading this book, largely because I am such a Hepburn fan. However, I was deeply disappointed. Ms. Karbo is a wonderful, breezy writer. However, the lessons in this book aren't much more than her personal opinions backed up by Hepburn anecdotes. While it's clear Ms. Karbo admires Kate Hepburn, I was not inspired nor enlightened by the material. If you are interested in learning about the actress, I suggest one of the other biographies. If you are interested in life lessons, I suggest a different book.
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Format: Hardcover
I find this book absolutely fascinating!

Karen Karbo has taken the power and wisdom of a legendary woman and created an enchanting manual for us to be `Hepburnized.' Kate has always been an inspiration for me in everyday life, and just the other day I thought someone should write a book about Kate's wit and wisdom. Ta da!! Here it is.....this lovely work I recommend to anyone ready to feel the fear and do it anyway and not to mention learning to find yourself absolutely fascinating!

I want to also say bravo to Karen for calling out William J. Mann and his preposterous "bio" on Kate. Read 'How to Hepburn' and find out what I'm talking about. Karen you are also a woman of substance. Kate would be proud.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is going straight to the donation pile!!!!!! I will not share it. It is really annoying, the author acts like she knows everything about Hepburn and is always giving a judgement call. Then she starts talking about herself. The writing is not even good...she beeps jumping around from subject to subject.
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Disappointing book in which the author tries too hard to be cute, clever and hip in using Hepburn's life and work to advance her premise.

Along the way she gets facts wrong, doesn't bother to source direct quotes, and uses a lot of re-cycled ideas. She also reveals a real lack of understanding of Hepburn's ability as an artist and makes some comments in regard to Hepburn's work that is laughable.

Bottom-line, I believe that Karbo does admire Hepburn but she also takes some cheap shots at Hepburn with comments for which she has no proof.

Left me with the nagging feeling that the real purpose of this book was to use the name "Hepburn" to make a couple of quick bucks off of a rather insubstantial book.
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Format: Hardcover
Like Karbo's other books, this is funny and perceptive. There's a lot of style here, as is fitting for the subject, but I don't want to make the book sound too light: it's genuinely thought-provoking.

As another reader points out, the book has the feel of a manifesto, and here that's a good thing. It moves along with the purpose, energy, and wink-as-you-go humor of, well, Hepburn.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The writing style is good, but content is just okay. It seems like the writer did a lot of research and kind of pieced things together. Ms Karbo obviously admires Katharine Hepburn, but that only leads to a few anecdotes from Ms Hepburns' interviews and some guess-work.
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Against the framework of supposedly learning to emulate Katharine Hepburn, we learn a good deal about her life and style.

The author is not kind and turns merciless when discussing Spencer Tracy.

Cute idea, amusingly delivered.
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