For some time now, I’ve been meaning to post a review of the book Fred Astaire by Joseph Epstein. The only thing that kept me from doing this sooner was knowing how much time it would take to page through the book finding examples of all the things I disliked about it. Such things include the multi-page essays on the difference between “style” and “class,” the details that distinguish “aristocratic dance” from “democratic dance,” and how Astaire embodies one while the Gene Kelly only manages to pull off the other. Overall, the book proved to be less of a biography and more of a venue for Epstein to gush over one of his heroes, and he does so by expounding heavily on things that are only tangentially pertinent to the book’s subject.
For what it’s worth, it’s an easy read. If you want something quick that’ll give you a glimpse into Fred Astaire’s life and career, this might be your book. But I wouldn’t recommend it if you REALLY want to get to know Fred Astaire.
For those who wish to read a substantive primer on the career of Fred Astaire, you may not need to look any farther than a recent New York Times profile. It has the same feel as Epstein’s book in that it doesn’t drag on details and still has a touch of fanaticism; yet unlike Epstein’s book, it leaves you feeling more familiar with Fred after you’ve read it.
From here, you’ll also find a nice list of books you can look to for more information on Astaire and his legendary dance partner, Ginger Rogers. I can’t help but point out NYT‘s anti-recommendation of Epstein’s book too. Click the link below to take a gander…
They Seem To Find the Happiness They Seek (NYT, 8.16.09)