BARBRA: A Biography of Barbra Streisand by Donald & Anthony Fowles Zee

BARBRA: A Biography of Barbra Streisand

Email this review


Written in noisy, high-strung, wise-guy style, this British biography of la Streisand draws extensively on Rene Jordan's I'm the Greatest Star (1975) but brings the story up to date--and also interjects a lot of pseudo-psychology and pseudo-artistic-criticism. Leaning heavily on the fact of her father's death soon after Barbara's Brooklyn birth (""In the crude colours of pop psychology, Barbra without an 'a' can be painted as an over-compensator""), Zec and Fowles follow the familiar climb, overwriting all the way: ""By osmosis, or design, Barbra Streisand had to be a winner. Losing sucks."" There's the ugly, asthmatic childhood; the unlovable stepfather; the teenage nightclub sensation; the first album (""These tracks, by the highest standards, won't do""); I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Elliott Gould, Funny Girl, the first TV special (""the first rounded success of her career in the majors""). And so on--from film to film, from escort to escort (recycling old gossip), to Jon Peters: ""Drawn powerfully towards each other by need, they inter-reacted like two unpredictable explosives erupting into what the experts call 'sympathetic detonation.'"" But while the authors treat each feud and career move with hyped-up portentousness, they snipe as well as gush--finding many performances bad, liking only one or two albums. And, in fact, they conclude that, ""in an overview sense,"" this famed perfectionist ""has been peculiarly careless"" by not becoming a great singer à la Billie Holiday: ""she is to date. . . an under-achiever."" Perhaps. But it's impossible to take Zec and Fowles seriously as esthetic authorities or as biographers--thanks to their glib rhetoric, their erratic judgments, their factual errors (many), and their misspellings (nothing short of rampant). So, with some interview material from Gould, Walter Matthau, a couple of friends, and a couple of longwinded directors, this is for love-hating fans only--who, in any case, will probably prefer the more lavish sort of fanzine bio (one was recently published by Doubleday) that's heavy on illustrations and light on prose.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's