Novelist Moore (My Old Objects) recounts drifting aimlessly through young adulthood after her mother’s death in this affecting coming-of-age story. Moore’s mother mysteriously died in her sleep when the author was 12; Moore, raised near Honolulu by a handsome, self-absorbed physician father, led a privileged life but was emotionally abused by her cruel stepmother. She befriended a wealthy neighbor, Ale Kaiser, and their friendship continued after a rebellious 17-year-old Moore was sent to live in Philadelphia in 1963. Moore impulsively changed careers and cities— “I had no sense of a future.... My mother’s death had deprived me of the ability to think more than a few weeks ahead.” She began working as a model, and in 1966 she was hired by fashion designer Oleg Cassini, who later raped her, then gave her a role in a movie he was working on called The Ambushers; to protect herself from Cassini she became the mistress of the film’s associate producer. While living in late 1960s Los Angeles, she thrived and befriended Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and writer Joan Didion. In reflecting on her mother’s madness, she realizes, “I no longer thought I was like her, too fragile, too crazy to survive.” Moore’s search for stability during a free-spirited decade is a whirlwind of celebrity encounters and a lyrical exploration of the lingering effects of a mother’s death. (Apr.)
Novelist Moore (In the Cut) looks back at the tumultuous events she experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. Moore's childhood, visited in an earlier memoir (Light Years), ended abruptly in 1963, when she was sent to Pennsylvania by her stepmother to live with her maternal relatives. The following decades, chronicled in exacting prose, see Moore attempting to build a life despite being sheltered from the realities of how other people live. Her journey to adulthood included years working as a sales clerk, model, personal assistant, and script reader to at least one movie star, as well as friend to the literati and glitterati after she made her way to California. Despite these seeming adventures, Moore's saga is far from the stuff of fairy tales, and the shadow cast by the early loss of her enigmatic mother is never far from the page. More harrowing still are the accounts of the cavalier attitudes toward women and sexual assault, which Moore describes ever so matter-of-factly. VERDICT Moore offers readers a well-written, unobstructed view of what appears to be an idyllic life, ultimately revealing that looks can be deceiving.—Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, Huntington P.L., NY
A novelist's engaging coming-of-age memoir.
In her novel Sleeping Beauties (1993), Moore (Creative Writing/Princeton Univ.; Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii, 2015, etc.) spun a dark fairy tale complete with a wicked stepmother and handsome prince who turns out, sadly, not to be charming. Here, she evokes that work of fiction: an account of her life, adventures, and misadventures, from childhood to her 30s. Once again, there is a cruel stepmother, a woman her father quickly married after Moore's mother, who had suffered several mental breakdowns, died in her sleep; a hardscrabble young adulthood when Moore, at 17, was sent from her native Hawaii to live with her grandmother and aunt in Pennsylvania; beneficent godmothers; handsome lovers; and fabulous clothes. Moore's stepmother resented Moore and her siblings, rationed their food, and deprived them of simple childhood pleasures. To escape her repressive home, Moore slipped away to visit a neighboring couple, the extremely wealthy and influential Kaisers: he, the famous shipbuilder; she, his beautiful younger wife, who bestowed on Moore castoff designer clothes, furs, and shoes. The Kaisers' connections opened doors for the author: a job at Bergdorf's; modeling, including at a boat trade show, where she wore a glittering silver sheath as Miss Aluminum; and minor roles in movies. With no aspirations to be an actor, Moore takes a wry, cleareyed view of the movie world's pretensions. Like the Kaisers, Connie Wald, the glamorous widow of producer Jerry Wald, proved to be another benefactor, launching Moore into a world of literary, artistic, and entertainment royalty: Joan Didion, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Nichols, and Jack Nicholson (with whom Moore had a brief fling), among many others. Moore portrays herself as "self-invented…a girl on the run," buffeted by life, "high-spirited" but always in need of emotional and financial protection and constantly afflicted by a "ceaseless longing for my mother." By her 30s, she stood on firmer ground: divorced, mother to an infant daughter, newly confident about shaping her future.
A captivating portrait of a woman in search of herself.
Named a Best Book of 2020 by The Times (UK)
"Striking . . . a personal statement of empowerment: [Moore] came, she saw, she took notes, and she left to become a novelist and a miss-no-detail student of female autonomy." Lisa Schwarzbaum, The New York Times
"As readers of Moore’s fiction know, she is a brilliant storyteller and sentence-maker . . . [Miss Aluminum] reminded me of everything I ever loved about her as a writer and now, as happens with certain memoirs, I feel like she is my friend a very elegant, accomplished grande dame sort of friend, to be sure, one who might loan you a pair of blue velvet Pucci bell-bottoms or a copy of 'The Great War and Modern Memory' on your way out the door after tea." Marion Winik, The Washington Post
"Now seventy-four, and a well-regarded author, Moore is ready to expose her “shadow self” and the pain of her early life . . . One gets a sense that what is revealed has been chosen appraisingly, not out of coyness but, rather, out of something resembling an architect’s appreciation of a structure’s good bones. Moore’s writing has the slightly mysterious sense of detachment that she adopted when building her persona, many years ago, though paradoxically this is what makes her revelations, when they come, more piercing." Naomi Fry, The New Yorker
"A captivating portrait of a woman in search of herself." Kirkus Reviews
"Elegant, eye-opening . . . When it comes to her portrait of LA in the 1960s and 70s, Moore gives its most famous chroniclers, [Joan] Didion and Eve Babitz, a run for their money." Lucy Scholes, The Times Literary Supplement
"Even better than her fiction: a gossipy, sardonic, nonchalantly glamorous production." Ed Potton, The Times (UK)
"Moore’s search for stability during a free-spirited decade is a whirlwind of celebrity encounters and a lyrical exploration of the lingering effects of a mother’s death." Publishers Weekly
"Poignant and hugely entertaining . . . The book bursts with brilliantly gossipy titbits, recounted with wry understatement . . . her tales of the Hollywood high life certainly provide giggles and glitz, though the darkness is never far from the surface. The real story is the ripple effect of grief, a woman’s self-invention and the awful deeds of powerful men." Fiona Sturges, The Guardian
"A tantalizing tale, told in a seductive and provocative voice." Carol Haggas, Booklist
"Miss Aluminum, an unvarnished new memoir by Susanna Moore, confirms many intimations from her for her acclaimed novels My Old Sweetheart, The Whiteness of Bones, In the Cut that hers is, and has been, an unconventional existence guided by the stars. Writing with unflinching candor, Moore, now in her 70s, tells stories both harrowing and heartening of the circumstances and serendipitous rendezvous in her teens and 20s that would shape her adult life . . . Her honesty is both timely and courageous." Robert Becker, Avenue