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“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.
In this debut memoir, novelist Weber (True Confections, 2009, etc.) tells the story of her colorful family and the scandalous—but monumentally transformative—love affair between her grandmother, Kay Swift and George Gershwin.
"Growing up, I missed George Gershwin without ever knowing him, because two people I loved, my mother and grandmother, loved him and missed him," writes the author. Swift was the Protestant wife of James Paul Warburg, scion of a distinguished Jewish family of bankers. A gifted musician, she knew brief success as the songwriter for the 1930 smash Broadway hit, "Fine and Dandy." But where she earned her greatest notoriety was as Gershwin's longtime lover and most ardent defender of the Gershwin musical legacy. The book often reads like a who's who of the New York high society that Andrea Swift Warburg, Swift's gentle, but tragically child-like daughter, eschewed through marriage. Warburg's husband, Sidney Kaufman, was a social-climbing womanizer whose primary allure was a passing resemblance to Gershwin. "Born in the back of a grocery store in Brooklyn to immigrant parents," his sole claim to fame was as the purveyor of Aromarama, a technique that wed film scenes to odors. As Weber acerbically remarks, "Most of my father's movie career took place at the intersection of making it and making it up." The book is strongest in its rich details of a dazzling but painful family past fraught with betrayals, infidelities and other assorted dysfunctions, including—in the figure of art historian Aby Warburg—mental illness. However, Weber is overly reliant on historical narrative to convey a very personal recollection, which creates an unintentionally brittle objectivity that makes it difficult for readers to connect with either Weber or her account, except at a distance.
Illuminating but often dry.
We Saw the Sea 1
A Decent Family 7
The Fire That Time 37
Subject: Sidney Kaufman 49
The Memory of All That 127
Emotional Problems in Pants 222
Scattered at Sea 264