by Barbara Seaman ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 19, 1987
A sympathetic, utterly cleareyed and sharply written life of the author of Valley of the Dolls, and a compelling read in itself. TV viewers and others who may have found Susann's public figure irksome, her face a plastic mask, and her books sheer trash will not be surprised to find her a victim of egocentricity and possessed by a drive for celebrity. The surprise will be in her ""human side,"" though even that was seriously shortchanged, And the later plastic mask, as was revealed after her death, was to cover the painful secret of the mastectomy that prompted her to write a book (about her poodle Josephine) and of the lingering, then terminal cancer lurking behind her next three, vastly successful productions. Seaman makes little claim for Susann's literary ability; her writing demanded editing of the most intense and reconstructive kind, and Dolls' was a made best seller by dint of publisher Bernard Gels' tricks in buying up books from bookstores to create a best seller. Dolls was also bruited about as raunchy and sexy, but was in fact mild stuff with no graphic couplings. Susann was the product of her home life as a well-to-do Jew in Philadelphia and as the daughter of a steamily attractive, wildly womanizing artist-father. At four, she once burst into his studio as he was ""humping"" his naked model on the couch: incestuous desire became a major theme of her adult novels. She was a bouncy tomboy, early started writing and acting (even as a child she wrote incest plays), and had the highest IQ in her grade school. She landed in New York as a teen-ager, quickly was seen as a greedy show biz groupie ablaze with ambition. After marrying publicist Irving Mansfield, 10 years older but not exciting in bed (he became the great love of her life anyhow), she inched upward by bedding Jewish comics, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Joe E. Lewis, and power brokers of stage and television. A lesbian affair with actress Carole Landis gave her real warmth (Landis later suicided) but did not last. Husband Irving denies all this, says she was never unfaithful to him--but he seems to live in two dimensions. Despite everything, Susann failed to win real celebrity until cancer made her take a writer's stand against death. And therein lies her glory. A faithful rendering, sure to satisfy Susann's eager following.
Pub Date: March 19, 1987
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987
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