Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wendy and the Lost Boys by Julie Salamon

Title: Wendy and the Lost Boys
Author: Julie Salamon

Genre: Non-Fiction (Biography / New York City / Playwright / Broadway / 1970s / Women's College / Family)
Publisher/Publication Date: The Penguin Press (8/18/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: Biography of Pultizer and Tony prize winning playwright, Wendy Wassterstein.

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover. It resembles a Playbill cover, and I can't imagine anything more fitting for a biography of a Broadway playwright.

I'm reminded of...: Nancy Milford

First line: When Wendy Wasserstein died on January 30, 2006, at age fifty-five, hers was a rare obituary considered important enough to make the front page of the New York Times.

Am... I seeking out Wasserstein's works now?: YES. Just raided the local library!

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow, especially if you enjoy reading about the '60s and '70s (there's some fun stuff about many favorite actors who crossed paths with Wendy Wasserstein).

Why did I get this book?: I love reading about women writers.

Review: I was wholly unfamiliar with Wendy Wasserstein but I love reading about writers, and her life featured so many elements I enjoy reading about -- women's colleges, New York City, the arts scene, and complicated families. This is an authorized biography and I was apprehensive at first that would mean a glossing over of anything unsavory about Wasserstein or her family. Instead, I found it to be measured, fair, and detailed (albeit dry from time to time).

Wasserstein's life has elements of the fairy tale -- a secret brother squirreled away in an asylum, her mother's 'forgotten' first marriage, rollercoaster success as a playwright, her secret pregnancy -- and Salamon presents Wasserstein's story with respect and a kind of calmness. At some points, I wanted a little less distance: Salamon writes very openly about the Wassersteins' intense secrecy, and even though she shares painful revelations, I still felt at arm's length. Perhaps it was the subject herself; as Salamon explains in her Acknowledgments: "Untangling Wendy Wasserstein's story required constant triangulation between her dramatic interpretations of her life and times...; her 'nonfiction' essays; and everything else...".

The snapshots of Wasserstein's life at Mount Holyoke were especially fascinating to me -- I love reading about women's colleges in the '60s -- and learning about the Off-Broadway theater scene was very eye-opening (especially in regards to how women were treated).

I enjoy taking risks with my reading now and then and I appreciated this biography of a new-to-me writer. Wendy Wasserstein is now on my TBR; having this background will make reading her work richer, I think, and I'm curious now about other female playwrights from the '60s and '70s.

13 comments:

  1. This sounds interesting to me because I read Wasserstein in a Women's Studies course in college and really enjoyed her work.

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  2. @Anna: There's such great info about her writing process and her revision process -- plus the context for where her writing came from. Really fascinating stuff!

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  3. i don't usually read bios. but this one does sound like a good one with such "drama".

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  4. Never heard of her I think...nope

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  5. I'm really curious about her, too. I'll keep an eye out for the book, and her novels and books and plays too.

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  6. I don't know very much about Wasserstein, but from the way you've described her life portrayed in this book, it seems that this is something that I would probably like. It's interesting to hear that the writing felt different due to the secretiveness of the subject, and that's something I might like to experience for myself. Very nice review. Must check this one out!

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  7. @Vee: Wassersteins' life covered so many fascinating topics that there's something to enjoy -- plus, the built in drama, of course!

    @Blodeuedd: I'm curious about her now after this book!

    @Marie: Do -- I'd love to know what you think. I'm especially interested in her early plays which deal with feminism, old school women's college vs new school, etc.

    @Heather: In some ways, given Wasserstein's intense privacy, I felt v badly reading this huge tell all bio -- but she's such an interesting woman, I didn't stop. Would love to know your thoughts if you do ever read this one!

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  8. I was a bit on the fence about reading this one. I know there will be treasures to uncover there, but I wasn't sure if it work as a whole for me. I'm still on the fence after reading your review, but it has inspired to read more Wasserstein, which I haven't done since college.

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  9. I always find it interesting how knowing the intimate details of a writer's life can color our interpretations of their writing. I've never heard of Wasserstein before, but I'm definitely going to look up some of her plays after reading this post. :)

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  10. I haven't read any Wendy Wassterstein, but I've wanted to for years. She was so influential. I like that you said there is a bit about her writing process (in the comments), which might make reading this a worthy endeavor for me.

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  11. I am familiar with Wasserstein's name and what she did in her life but I've never read any of her work. It sounds like she was an intelligent and fascinating woman and I'd love to read about her college days and her Broadway career.
    Thank you for a terrific review...I'll be looking into Wendy Wasserstein's work :o)

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  12. I'm a big fan of the cover as well - it is SO appropriate!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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  13. I love Wasserstein's work -- The Heidi Chronicles is one of my all time favorites, and I loved her book, Shiksa Goddess. I even liked the movie, The Object of my Affection, which was her screenplay.
    I remember thinking it was so sad, that she died young after just having had her daughter...
    I definitely want to read this one; I really enjoyed your review :)

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