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Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Hardcover – April 11, 2002

3.3 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

There's probably no woman in America who is as famous--or controversial--as Martha Stewart. In Martha Inc. Christopher Byron gets past the public persona to tell how "the quiet little girl from the house on Elm Place" became the "richest self-made businesswoman in America." While Byron acknowledges that Stewart has a good side, there's not much evidence of it here; much of the book focuses on the darker aspects of Stewart's private life that were first popularized in Jerry Oppenheimer's mean-spirited Just Desserts. Unlike Oppenheimer's account, however, Byron keeps the mudslinging in check by also chronicling her amazing business success as "one of the most potent and effective brands in the history of American marketing." He details her relationships with Kmart, Group W, and Time-Warner, noting that her maneuvering to buy her company back from Time-Warner was "easily the greatest financial coup in the history of American publishing." The result is an interesting and often scandalous story of a woman who proves to be far more complicated than the image her media empire projects. --Harry C. Edwards

From The New Yorker

An irony underlies this splendid biography: although Mary Shelley revered the memory of her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth to her, she was dominated by men all her life, beginning with her father, the impecunious radical William Godwin. She eloped with Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was then married to another woman, and she catered to the rebellious poet's whims until his death, in 1822. As a twenty-four-year-old widow with one surviving child, she depended on her unsympathetic father-in-law, who provided scant support on the condition that she not publish Shelley's poetry or write about him. She eked out a living as a hack writer, but her notorious novel, "Frankenstein," brought in only a pittance. Her reconstruction of her husband's image proved more successful, however. By the time she died, in 1851, her son had inherited the Shelley estate, and Mary, evading her father-in-law's prohibitions, had invented a dreamy, saintlike Shelley, more acceptable to Victorians than her turbulent husband had been.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471123005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471123002
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 0.6 x 3.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,682,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Martha Inc. is a balanced biography of Martha Stewart, but short on recent details. I was hoping to read more about her life after she started Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, but most of the material is a re-hash of many events that one can read in Just Desserts. The epilogue contains information about Martha and Kmart after the tech bust and Kmart's bankruptcy, which is a nice follow-up. The author, Christopher Byron, seems a bit star-struck by Martha, too, calling her a "beautiful blonde" a few too times in the book. Martha Inc. is a good read for Martha followers like me -- subscriber to the magazine, viewer of her TV show, consumer of Martha products -- but to the reader who wants even juicier details, read Just Desserts first.
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Format: Hardcover
Unlike the more recent "biography" books about Martha Stewart (see Jerry Oppenheimar's Just Deserts), this isn't simple an exploitative, mean spirited hatchet job. In Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Christopher M. Byron makes an effort to be at least somewhat balanced about the lady. True, he does dwell on the negatives, but at least some positives are considered.
What seems clear is that Ms. Stewart is no longer a pleasant middle class housewife-is this really so surprising? The woman leads the largest Woman run media empire in America. When would she have time to be average anything?
And, since when are corporate titans nice guys? Michael Eisner at Disney may project warm fuzzies out the wazzou on camera-it's clear from what's been writtten it's s different story when the camera is pointed elsewhere. Is that OK for a man nut unacceptable for a woman? Puh-leeeeease!
Of course, it's starting to become clear that Ms. Martha may never have been pleasant, even when she undeniably was a middle class house wife. There appears to be a mean streak there that is congenital-maybe that's what you need to be like to make it to the top, but it's not necessarily a hatchet job when you point out the truth.
And what is the truth according to Byron? That Martha is a very successful gal-bydint of very hard and ceaseless work. That such hard work took a major toll on her private life (Gee, another surprise, eh?) and some of those left behind don't remember her fondly.
The truth also is that Martha saw-and exploited-the available synergies between print, media and internet well before anyone else did-and has done so at a level few others have approached(Looked at the value-using that word loosely-of AOL/Time Warner stock lately?
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Format: Hardcover
Byron does indeed tell an "incredible story" about one of the most successful businesswomen in the world. How much of it is credible? Is she really as brilliant and resourceful as he suggests? Is she also as spiteful and mean-spirited as he suggests? As I read this book, I sometimes had a difficult time determining what Byron makes of the material he shares. His attitude seems ambivalent as indeed do those who have worked for and with Stewart over the years. Much of the material was provided by friends, enemies, acquaintances, business associates, and employees. He and most of those interviewed seem to admire what she has achieved. However, he and many of them also seem to deplore her values, attitudes, and (especially) her mistreatment of others.
Byron met Stewart in Westport (CT) and knew her only casually as a neighbor whom he encountered infrequently. At that time, he was advancing his career as a journalist, writing for the Wall Street Journal. He became intrigued by the rapid development of her own career and decided to write a book about her. Initially Stewart agreed to cooperate with him but later reconsidered. At no point in the narrative does Byron express any animosity toward her (or about anything else, for that matter) but many others do, notably Kathy Tatlock and Norma Collier. Along the way, Byron also examines Stewart as wife and mother. He observes: "As Martha's fame grew, and she became increasingly absorbed in making it grow still more, she seemed to have less and less time for her personal relationships -- not just with [husband] Andy and [daughter] Alexis, but with her employees, her neighbors, and anyone else she might encounter day to day. A brusque efficiency began to take over her conversations.
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By A Customer on April 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Byron's work in uncovering and exposing one of America's most visible figures is, simply put, BRILLIANT. Through his dependable and accurate sources, the author opens the deep, dark, murky, Martha, the Martha nobody knows, and nobody wants to know, and shows her to the world at large. With the deftness of the master flower arranger herself, Byron stacks the dark secrets of her life and rise to fame and fortune, exposing quite a bit about the American consciousness as well. Simply brilliant!!!!! (****1/2)
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Format: Hardcover
This book rocks! I literally couldn't put it down. Byron managed to get all this great detail on Martha Stewart herself -- juicy tidbits as well as insightful "fly on the wall" descriptions of Martha's business acumen and tough negotiations. Martha created her empire with the knowledge that she'd tapped into something unique and didn't let anything stand in her way. She truly is a woman ahead of her time, and I found myself often in awe at what she accomplished while reading ths book. But after reading MARTHA INC, I know I wouldn't ever want to work for her or fall victim to a "Martha Moment"! What a complex creature. What a great read!
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