canbelto

Comparisons of books of a similar subject

37 posts in this topic

Going way back to the Beverly Sills' books: who is the author of "Beverly Sills"; is that Kerby?

Giannina

Sills' second memoir was entitled "Beverly" rather than "Beverly Sills" . It's subtitled "an autobiography" and the "with" writer is Lawrence Linderman.

Actually the two memoirs, very different in tone, nicely reflect the two personnas that Sills evidently had. I was a bit surprised, even shocked when "Beverly" was published. I never knew Sills except as a backstage fan and a follower in her operatic, concert, television, and also her many, many philanthropic efforts and the tone of "Bubbles" matched the person I had encountered. Sills was very generous with her time and helpful with young singers. And she was tireless in supporting the March of Dimes and other charities that dealt with birth defects, so close to home to her with both children being born with terrible genetic problems.

A close friend of mine asked her backstage at the opera for advise on pursuing a singing career and Sills was endlessly patient and generous

with her, giving her lots of very specific encouragement and suggestions. And one wonders how many, many times she ran into this same situation after singing a performance and greeting enthusiatic but time-consuming strangers in her dressing room.

I also recall a TV performance in the late 70s where Sills was doing a benefit performance (she did many, many of these) for a Midwestern music school. The young student playing the flute accompaniment to the piece Sills was singing was not really up to the level of expertise the piece required and could only get through the notes at a rather slow pace. Sills' carefully slowed down her own tempo and watched the young student carefully staying with her and smiling the whole time to encourage the young performer and not to undermine her confidence. Sills very warmly had the young flute player take all the bows with her.

And she made countless appearances on different TV shows during the 70s, almost always displaying the very charismatic, enthusiastic, charming person with a very generous sense of humor. I had heard her trademark hearty laugh many, many times myself backstage after her performances or when she was "visiting" the NYCO on her nights off.

So I was a bit surprised at the different side of the same person in "Beverly". But evidently that also accurately reflected another side of Sills, who after all was a Gemini. You didn't cross her professionally or try to cut her out of something she felt was her entitlement. In this situations she was tough and singeleminded. Ruthless could also probably be used accurately. And increasingly, as Sills got older, she had an ever greater need of public acknowledgement and attention. The repeated name dropping that crops up in "Beverly" became more and more pronounced as Sills acted as "host" on televised arts events. It was all progressively less and less about the performers she was interviewing and more, and more about her own career. Sadly, I cringed when she appeared on the tv screen, anticipating yet another rehash of "Beverly's" own triumphs rather the the unfortunate person who "thought" they were in the spotlight.

So to me, it's interesting to read both books. Which is the "real" person??? I think BOTH of them are.

Share this post


Link to post

Ordered it from Amazon and it's on its way. Ballet Talk will get a percentage of the cost of the book, which was 1 cent! Better they should get a percentage of the postage, which was $3.99. Thanks, Richard53dog.

Share this post


Link to post
So to me, it's interesting to read both books. Which is the "real" person??? I think BOTH of them are.

I think that's fair. Sills came very close to missing out on stardom completely and I'm sure that stayed with her a long time. She had to be tough and maybe it made her a bit of a grievance collector. "Bubbles" is the kind of autobiographical work that tends to appear while the performer is still active, "Beverly" is the one that settles scores.

Sadly, I cringed when she appeared on the tv screen, anticipating yet another rehash of "Beverly's" own triumphs rather the the unfortunate person who "thought" they were in the spotlight.

I remember that. Sigh.

Share this post


Link to post
Sadly, I cringed when she appeared on the tv screen, anticipating yet another rehash of "Beverly's" own triumphs rather the the unfortunate person who "thought" they were in the spotlight.

For me it was the early Met HD broadcasts that made me want to crawl away.

Share this post


Link to post
Plagiarism is indeed considered serious, and wasn't there a famous case in the 90s at the New Yorker, I forget the writer's name, Janet something?
Patrick, it was Janet Malcolm I think you are referring to a couple of controversies she was at the center of. One stemmed from her criticisms of the man who headed the Freud archives. He sued for libel, claiming she had made up some of the rather outrageous statements she claimed he had made. in court, Malcolm could not support all of her quotations with notes. I don't recall how this ended, but I remember that later on she found some notes that did support at least part of her claims.

Incidentally, Malcolm has a piece in this week's New Yorker: a fascinating report of a murder trial within the Bukharan Jewish community in Queens. It's a very long piece, and not available online. But here's a summary, with photo of the defendents:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/05...fa_fact_malcolm]Iphigenia in Forest Hills://http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/...orest Hills[/b]://http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/...orest Hills[/b]

Share this post


Link to post
I thought this would be a very fun topic. Nowadays it seems as if multiple biographies of the same people come out every year. Also, new translations of classics, etc. So I thought I'd start this off by comparing biographies of one of my favorite topics, the Tudors.

Just about the six wives of Henry, we have tomes by Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, and David Starkey. I think Starkey's book goes more in depth than the other two, reprinting in whole letters and documents. Cardinal Wolsey and Catherine's servants get much attention. It is also longer than the other two books. However, Starkey seems very full of himself (read the introduction), and his conclusions are IMO somewhat dubious. I think the best overall book is Antonia Fraser's. It's the most well-written and insightful, and has the right amount of scholarly research but isn't overloaded.

But the best book about Henry's wives is IMO Eric Ives' "Life and Death of Anne Boleyn."

Any others?

There are so many Tudor biographies out there! There's a good older bio of Mary I, H.M.F. Prescott's "Mary Tudor" aka "The Spanish Tudor," a very sympathetic account.

Share this post


Link to post

Ray, thanks for those impressions of Sills.

So to me, it's interesting to read both books. Which is the "real" person??? I think BOTH of them are.
I'm sure you are correct.

I know plenty of people who are strivers and achievers, as Sills seems to be in the second book, but WITHOUT the generosity and warmth (in private as well as public) which you describe and which come across in the first book. I haven't read either book, but have the feeling that the second book would deepen her character rather than subvert her image.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.

Share this post


Link to post
Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.

No she didn't. It's really the kind of tell-all book written by someone OTHER than the subject.

It always surprised me a bit that Sills was willing to present such an unflattering side of herself for public consumption. But perhaps in her own mind it really wasn't unflattering... Denial is an amazing thing!

When I wrote of my positive memories of Sills as a personality and particularly her patience with sometimes unthinking fans, I forgot to mention an episode I shudder to remember. In this case, following a 1971 recital, the dense, thoughtless, obtuse fan was none other than myself. Sills had sung an impossibly difficult program; arias from Mignon, Rodelinda, Zaide, Louise, the mad scene from Thomas' Hamlet, Zerbinetta's aria from Ariadne as well as a song cycle by Milhaud and assorted Schumann songs. And that was before the encores. Backstage I asked her what the highest notes she had sung in some of the pieces were.

It went something like this: me ....."What was the top note in the Zerbinetta aria" Sills....."E-natural". Me..."Oh, you didn't sing a High F-sharp?".

Me...."what was the top note in Je Suis Titania?" . Sills "High e-flat" . Me "Oh, that's all???. I thought you would sing something higher"

She was basically polite and gracious through this exchange. I am so embarrassed to remember it!!!!!!!!!!! Teenagers can be hopeless!

Share this post


Link to post

That's a cute story, richard53dog, thanks. :clapping:

Share this post


Link to post
Well, it must be said that Sills didn't help herself with that second book. Even after making allowances it doesn't always make for pleasant reading.

I would recommend that fans of Beverly Sills NOT read the book. It really does show her as very bitter, not a kind word to say about anyone. You wonder why the editor never told her to tone it down a bit.

Share this post


Link to post

richard53dog wrote:

It went something like this: me ....."What was the top note in the Zerbinetta aria" Sills....."E-natural". Me..."Oh, you didn't sing a High F-sharp?".

Me...."what was the top note in Je Suis Titania?" . Sills "High e-flat" . Me "Oh, that's all???. I thought you would sing something higher"

She was basically polite and gracious through this exchange. I am so embarrassed to remember it!!!!!!!!!!! Teenagers can be hopeless!

Amazing what we will say under some circumstances--I have a had a few of those "don't want to remember it" encounters backstage. Looking back it is amazing that singers can be so gracious when dealing with some of their fans right after finishing a performance. Thanks goodness I learned the best thing to say (or at least to start with) is along the lines of

"We loved you in (the performance just completed) and with thought you were wonderful in (a relatively recent past performance) and hope to be able to see your (future performance).

Share this post


Link to post