My Judy Garland Life

My Judy Garland Life

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by Susie Boyt
     
 

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An irresistible mixture of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, hero worship, and sequinstudded self-help that will speak to anyone who's ever nursed an obsession.

Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt's life since she was three years old: comforting, inspiring, and at times disturbing her. In this unique book,

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Overview

An irresistible mixture of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, hero worship, and sequinstudded self-help that will speak to anyone who's ever nursed an obsession.

Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt's life since she was three years old: comforting, inspiring, and at times disturbing her. In this unique book, Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero worship, examining our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief, and fame through the prism of Judy. Her journey takes in a duetting breakfast with Mickey Rooney, a munchkin luncheon, a latenight spree at the Minnesota Judy Garland Museum, and a breathless, semi-sacred encounter with Liza Minnelli.

Layering key episodes from Garland's life with defining moments from her own, Boyt explores with insight and humor what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don't know. Does hero worship have to be a pursuit that's low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fandom? Chronicling her obsession, Boyt illuminates her own life and perfectly distills why Judy Garland is such a legend.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“I couldn't put down Susie Boyt's quirkily brilliant My Judy Garland Life...Boyt reaches winsome, deeply honest conclusions about the nature of celebrity worship and her own need for love. Best of all, Boyt keeps a sense of humor about the sheer madness of the whole project that is contagious and ultimately uplifting – not unlike the trouper spirit of Ms. Garland herself.” —O magazine

“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…. Boyt's hagiography proves poetic and endearing.” —Publishers Weekly

“[My Judy Garland Life] is an unusual mixture of appreciation, biography and autobiography, but its most fascinating aspect, is, paradoxically, not the shimmer of the star, but the portrait that emerges, via a tantalizing trail of revelations, of the author herself... unfailingly funny and perceptive... [a] thoroughly delightful book.” —Salon

“No doubt about it, the engaging My Judy Garland Life promises to be one of the most unusual, and truly inventive, books you'll read this year... You don't need to be a fan of Judy Garland to enjoy this book.” —Buffalo News, Book Club selection

“Boyt has written an effusive exegesis of her own obsession, offering a fresh take on fandom and fantasy, longing and humiliation, loss and joy, and quite simply feeling... the author is funny and self-aware throughout, and anyone who has ever fallen sway to a book or a movie, combed through liner notes, listened to a song on repeat or succumbed to an all-consuming passion for that which cannot be consumed, will certainly appreciate Boyt's examination and celebration of her own fervor.” —Newsday

“I'm blown away…it's truly, madly, deeply brilliant.” —Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland

“Never mind that Ms. Garland died when Ms. Boyt was 5 months old. In My Judy Garland Life Ms. Boyt constructs a fan's-eye friendship between the two of them and actually makes it work... [A] wildly bizarre but wonderfully disarming hybrid of memoir, biography and mash note... My Judy Garland Life runs on whimsy that is utterly idiosyncratic. It's also fueled by a comic, poignant desperation...” —Janet Maslin, New York Times

“A wonderfully engaging and inspiring book about love, loss, consolation, folly, and cakes.” —Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess

“A cross between a fan's notes and a heartfelt story of a lonely British girl who found more love and inspiration in one movie star than in anyone closer to home.” —Sara Nelson, Daily Beast

“Beautiful, moving, and unique…blends autobiography with biography to create something magical, poetic, and truly original. As we follow the intertwining of two stories, and the meditations on the dreams, hopes, losses, and joys of human life, we realize that it is about much more than two people--it is about all of us.” —Darian Leader, author of Stealing the Mona Lisa and Why People Get Ill

“Boyt's obsession with Judy Garland is more than a memoir; it analyzes celebrity, how it affects us and succeeds in making star crushes feel noble, not shameful. A funny and moving look at pop culture.” —Elle (UK), "Read of the Month"

“The desire to create something profound out of something seemingly superficial makes for an extremely strange but rather wonderful undertaking. The book defies definition. It has elements of biography, autobiography, self-help and fan letter; although it's firmly nonfiction, there are parts that read like a novel. Above all, it is a bold experiment that sets out to map the boundaries of celebrity obsession, and somewhere along the way discovers what it means to be human…beautiful, heart-stopping writing.” —Observer (UK)

“What a self-deprecating, funny, moving, entertaining read it is…Can cynicism really be so simply out-argued? Can a book really be so analytical and high-kicking, so fragile and defiant at the same time? A…truly altruistic piece of modern thought, this wonderfully clever books gives its whole self, flings its arms out in a rainy street like a wonderful diva. Brava.” —Times(London)

Janet Maslin
Never mind that Ms. Garland died when Ms. Boyt was 5 months old. In My Judy Garland Life Ms. Boyt constructs a fan's-eye friendship between the two of them and actually makes it work…[a] wildly bizarre but wonderfully disarming hybrid of memoir, biography and mash note.
—The New York Times
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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Kirkus Reviews
Fashion columnist/novelist Boyt (Only Human, 2004, etc.) obsesses over a life obsessed with Judy Garland. "[Judy] was my life in purest form," writes the author, "encapsulating and refining all the things that interested me most." Like Garland, Boyt had a traumatic start. She was born into a broken home and was often overweight and overwrought. She also liked to sing and, as she flirted with a performing career, longed for the stage mother she didn't have. (Garland's daughter Lorna Luft later suggested to the author that children should not be robbed of childhood.) Like millions of others, Boyt was transfixed by an early screening of The Wizard of Oz, identifying intensely with the film's star. Her memoir tends to circle in adulatory generalizations about Garland, occasionally getting specific to make somewhat tenuous connections between the two lives. Garland's "flicker of lip and eye" in a frame from Meet Me in St. Louis launches the author's recollections of her own Christmases. A telling essay about Garland's schooling between takes at Metro leads to Boyt's ruminations about emotional and physical hunger. Boyt's insight into Garland's work is mostly uneven, but she scores with an analysis of the failure of Garland's TV series in the mid-'60s. The author posits that the devastation wrought by the cancellation contributed to the singer's demise. Along the way, Boyt offers sharp but too-brief profiles of Garland's fans and co-workers, including cabaret performer Mary Cleere Haran, who comes off as rather testy, and a quickly glimpsed Mickey Rooney, who appears grumpy and enigmatic. Boyt's anxieties prior to an interview with Liza Minnelli may exhaust reader patience, but the interviewitself, however sketchy, rewards with its quick, telling details. The author's parting observation-"I have navigated my life under her [Garland's] star"-comes as no surprise. Even die-hard Garland fans may wish Boyt's ardor had limits.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596916661
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Oxford U niversity. She is the author of four novels, including The Last Hope of Girls, which was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and Only Human, which was shortlisted for the Mind Award. She writes a weekly column about fashion for the Financial Times. She also works part time as a bereavement counselor.

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My Judy Garland Life 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Gary-Horrocks-London-UK More than 1 year ago
I have had the great pleasure to read the UK edition of this wonderful book, released in England to universal media acclaim in October 2008.

This is an intensely personal and exquisitely conceived narrative that analyses the impact of a legend and enduring icon on one person's life. Two parallel journeys are interwoven with humour, pathos, anecdote, whimsical speculation and extraordinary insight. Garland's personality and legacy strides like a colossus throughout; yet never overpowers the author's articulate and sensitive observations of her own life and experiences. This is a sincere and brave venture that assimilates with great skill biography and autobiography. It will strike a chord with anybody out there who still has a heart and isn't frightened to admit it.

The book encapsulates that intense intimacy and personal bond that many Garland fans feel towards Judy; that 'profound kinship' that unites devotees across the world. It's an acutely sensitive book where Susie reflects on her own battles to understand and master her own day-to-day life; the emotional world of love, laughter and loss that we all inhabit, and Judy is a passive companion throughout this process. At one point Boyt observes: 'I wasn't there at the moments of [Judy's] greatest triumphs and her cruelest despair. But she has been at mine' and it is a sentiment fans of any star or performer will share.

One chapter, entitled 'World's Greatest Entertainer' stands alone as one of, if not THE most eloquent analysis of Garland's talent that I have ever encountered. Susie has captured the impact of Judy: THE voice, THE personality, THE agony, ecstasy and rollercoaster extremities. The book is rich with anecdotes, eloquent and evocative childhood memories, amusing 'what if...' speculation, humour and tears; and Judy is the key point of reference in Susie's life - omnipresent but never really getting in the way of Susie's story.

It is such a brave and exciting new direction in biography/memoir; beautifully illustrated with some superb and rare Garland photographs. Anybody out there who has ever idolised or respected a performer or role model of any shape or form will love this book. Garland fans will lap it up. Superb, and so cleverly and eloquently written.
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