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My Judy Garland Life: A Memoir Hardcover – April 28, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

By turns clever, hilariously ironical and sweetly earnest, English novelist Boyt's paean to the legendary singer and actress elevates hero worship to the role of self-improvement. As a sensitive, conscientious, overweight youngster growing up in London, Boyt—painter Lucian Freud's daughter, although her parents split up before she was born in 1969—learned early on through listening to Judy's thrilling, moving singing that the person with the strongest feelings in life is to be the best. Boyt (Last Hope of Girls) moves through Judy's rich, complex career and increasingly unraveling personal saga while sounding important themes that resonated in Boyt's own life: being early stagestruck (Boyt reckons she attended almost 2,000 dance classes as a youth); feeling unwanted; needing to rescue others in crisis and to console; and dealing with the drama of drug addicts. Boyt has managed to interview many of the survivors in Judy's story, such as Liza Minnelli, Joe Luft and Mickey Rooney; she pilgrimaged to Judy's birthplace in Grand Rapids, Minn., and her burial site in Westchester, N.Y., and sifts obsessively through questionnaires she gave to fans to understand better Judy's personal connection with people. While lavish, Boyt's hagiography proves poetic and endearing. (May)
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From Booklist

By definition, the memoir is a self-indulgent genre, as the author spins memories as remembered, perhaps not accurately, and definitely one-sided. Boyt’s exhaustive and exhausting memoir of her lifelong obsession with Judy Garland is marked with passages of beautiful writing and occasional spotlights of self-awareness. However, readers will be drawn to this train wreck of a painful, exasperating, yet utterly compelling life story of a woman wholly enamored of one of Hollywood’s greatest celebrities. Since her first viewing of The Wizard of Oz, Boyt has never let go of her single-minded obsession with Judy Garland, who died before Boyt was born. Boyt compulsively chases down every snippet of gossip, mundane details, and loose connections regarding Garland and relentlessly tweaks them to fit into her own life. Readers will ponder if the author is to be admired for never giving up her passion or scorned for refusing to see the truth. For readers who have ever wondered what a fantasy world would look like in print, look no further than this author’s backyard. --Stover Kaite Mediatore
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916661
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,720,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pauline R. Edington on June 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I love biographies and autobiographies, but truthfully, when I heard there was another Judy Garland book coming out, I was skeptical that anything new could be said...was I wrong! The insight she portrays of Judy's life and the analogy of her own life makes me feel like the parts of my life that go from the sublime to the ridiculous can be didactic and delightful as well!
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Format: Hardcover
Susie Boyt's memoir My Judy Garland Life is stunning. It is a proud and naked exclamation by the author for her unapologetic love and devotion for her (and thousands of others) idol Judy Garland.
This book is a journey into the world of Susie- a little girl that grows into an amazing woman, mother and wife, novelist, columnist for the financial times and now story teller with a tale "for any one that's ever held a candle to a star" (Ms. Boyt's words). The story is dear and powerful. I believe a film would be fantastic!
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Format: Hardcover
This is an utterly wonderful book, part biography, part memoir, part novel, that sets out to examing all the different faces of love, loss and fame and find out what it really means to be human. Beautifully written, at times hilarious at other moments poignant or even heart-breaking, it is, deep down, a very high spirited book about grief. Its breadth is incredible, going from stage school antics, how to get someone into rehab, the history of psychoanalysis in the USA, the travails of being from a big dynasty, the dynamics of mourning, cake decorating, show tunes, the loneliness of the understudy...and of course Judy Garland in all her majesty!
A must not just for Judy fans, but for fans of fine writing and life.
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Format: Paperback
As an overly emotional, obsessive fan of many, many things, I think I have been subconsciously waiting for this memoir for my entire life. Personal experiences of art and fandom are almost always compelling for me; it puts the work in a completely unique light, and ends up yielding some very illuminating insights into celebrity culture. Judy Garland, for Susie Boyt, belongs to more of a celestial realm than just pop culture or showbiz... her adoration and devotion is touching, a little unsettling in its intensity sometimes, but something I can relate to very well.

Boyt goes at her subject with ardor and gusto and embarrassing honesty -- all wonderful things to share with a reader. She has wonderful poetic descriptions, but relatively little sensibility for straightforward plot trajectories. However, she's very well suited to her subject in this; Judy Garland herself lived in a perpetual storm of emotion. We can definitely follow the arc of Boyt's emotions throughout the book (if not the storyline of her research, her life, or even Judy's). Boyt has awe and befuddlement for her idol,and does not claim to be laying out anything like a "definitive biography", so don't think you're getting that. She spends the book basking in the essence of Judy, and exploring her own propensity to adore her so completely as an idol and a human being.

I would say this is definitely a feminine book, with lots of emotion, but I promise it's not flighty at all -- it is unflinching and psychologically incisive. It was also clearly composed in an absolute fit of joy that is hard to resist.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not entirely sure how I came to read this book, but I've always loved the Wizard of Oz and was curious to learn more about Judy Garland's life. This book is not exactly the book to do that, as Boyt is preaching (presumably) to the converted Judy fans of the world about the never-ending wonderfulness of Judy Garland in every aspect of her career, and her personal life.

I suppose in terms of a memoir, it's about Boyt's undying belief in Judy as a savior of some kind within her own life - mishmashing details of her life with Judy's in a odd mix of nostalgia, admiration, and obsession. Quite frankly, the most interesting parts of the book are the ones that reveal unique insight into the Judy Garland story - whether odd bits of trivia or snippets from the interviews Boyt undertakes with various characters in Judy's life. Reading about Boyt's non-Judy life is somewhat lackluster; it starts out to draw some interesting parallels to Judy, but becomes more sporadic in its insertion in later chapters. Overall, the book lacks a clear focus / order / cohesion that can make it a bit tiresome to read.

That being said...if you are an educated Judy fan already, you'll love this book. As someone not fully versed in Judy Garland (other than seeing a biography or two of hers on TV, endless rewatches of the Wizard of Oz, and knowing snippets of her personal life) I finished this book fully wanting to believe in the fervor Boyt holds for Judy. I've watched a half-dozen of her YouTube clips already and plan to track down some of her other movies I haven't seen, and I am quick to believe in the magical qualities of Judy as a performer based on Boyt's quite lovingly crafted passages that makes this book a delight to read (at times).

My bottom line though?
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
It's time for this book to be made into a movie, we need it! Judy's life needs as much contemplation and study as a revived icon in this new age of flat entertainers relentlessly promoted. We need to look at the full blown star (Judy!) to remember what depth means. Bravo Susie Boyt!!!
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