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The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities Paperback – June 12, 2012
Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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—Floyd Skloot, The Boston Globe
“Highly appealing….a book infused with the doubt that we all bring to the contemplation of those mysterious beings who birthed us, along with our certainty that few subjects are more fascinating….It’s when Ms. Weber remembers Papa that her considerable skills as a writer are most seductively on display. And it’s not just because the exasperating Kaufman is such a good subject. It’s that Ms. Weber is able to arrange words musically, so that they capture the elusive, unfinished melodies that haunt our memories of childhood. As her grandmother’s lover might have put it, she’s got rhythm.”
—The New York Times
“The Memory of All That is less a family memoir than a family biography. Which is good because Weber’s kin are more than fascinating enough to stand on their own without embellishments of personal memory. (A-) ”
“Gracefully written, poignant and droll, The Memory of All That is a gifted author’s brave look back at her eccentric, lively forbears — their dealings, foibles and affairs.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Weber is an accomplished novelist; she knows well how to manipulate fictional form, as any reading of her 2006 novel Triangle will readily illustrate….In The Memory of All That, Weber’s eye for detail and for the right phrase is undiminished. No, no, they can’t take that away.”
"Old scandals. What fun...The core of her tale is that of elegant sin and betrayal."
"Weber is an elegant writer, and she can be witheringly funny."
—Palm Beach Post
"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."
“I honestly don't believe I've ever read a memoir so filled with anything like Weber’s own, fierce, detached grace. Her ability to evoke the most horrifying events while reducing the reader to helpless laughter is uncanny….An extraordinary achievement.”
—Robb Forman Dew
“Novelist Weber mines her rich family history, hitting the mother lode of pedigreed romances and remembrances….Grandmother Kay Swift, the first female Broadway composer and George Gershwin’s longtime lover; grandpa James Paul Warburg, FDR’s economic adviser, and daddy Sidney Kaufman, serial womanizer, unconventional filmmaker, and producer of the first feature film that literally smelled, thanks to a process called Aromarama, literally walk off the pages of this captivating multigenerational saga.”
“A wry portrait of a powerful, talented, but troubled family.”
“Novelist Weber tells the story of her colorful family and the scandalous—but monumentally transformative—love affair between her grandmother, Kay Swift and George Gershwin….Rich details of a dazzling but painful family past fraught with betrayals, infidelities and other assorted dysfunctions…. illuminating.”
"A thoroughly engaging family memoir."
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Finally, I'd give anything to have Ganz for my grandmama. And, I did for a while as I rode with Katharine Weber through this superb, revelatory family history. Weber's memoir carries a gift -- look to your own history for what's hidden and, maybe more interesting, what wasn't hidden but blurred, shifted and misaligned.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought the first half of the book too much time was focused on the author's father. But then, subsequent portions of the book were very interesting.Published 16 months ago by Ann Bley
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 morePublished 23 months ago by J. C. Pernice
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 morePublished on April 1, 2014 by Pam Gersh
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 on February 22, 2013 by thelma n ferguson
Thought this an interesting book...lots of characters to try to keep straight....an era that must have been very exciting in many ways, all kinds of fascinating people. Read morePublished on February 10, 2013 by L.R. McFadden
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 morePublished on September 3, 2012 by Mariane Matera
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
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 morePublished on October 24, 2011 by So. Calif book reader
In the first book you read a tirade from a daughter to a suspiciously bad set of parents which leaves you saying .. Read morePublished on September 14, 2011 by Neil D. Brown