LIFE WITH JACKIE by Irving with Jean Libman Block Mansfield
Kirkus Star

LIFE WITH JACKIE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Jackie Susann, of course--as remembered, in rambling, fulsome, but often-infectious detail, by her husband and partner in unrivaled book-promotion. They met in late 1930s Manhattan, when Brooklyn-born Irving was a rising showbiz/PR man and Jackie--from a classy Philadelphia/Jewish clan--was a stagestruck, struggling actress. Marriage soon followed, and Irving's career spread into radio/TV producing. But their only child, apparently autistic, had to be institutionalized (heart-rending material in Mansfield's plain, sorrowful telling). And though the need for distraction fueled Jackie's already-burning desire to be a superstar of some kind, the Forties and Fifties brought only frustration: failed playwrighting attempts, minor acting assignments. Only in the Sixties, after having given up, did Jackie have a change of luck--when friend Billy Rose insisted that her letters to him about her poodle would make a book. They did indeed: Every Night, Josephine!--which became an unlikely bestseller. . . thanks partly to the hard-sell efforts of Irving and Jackie (who was recovering from the trauma of a secret mastectomy). Valley of the Dolls followed, after two years of obsessive work. So did contract problems with Bernard Geis, two more blockbusters, tireless Jackie/Irving promotion (even coffee-and-danish with the book-distributor's truck drivers), movie versions (which Jackie hated), celebrity. . . and a long final battle with cancer, made especially poignant by the continued, problematic institutionalization of still-unspeaking son Guy. Mansfield indulges in some predictable hyperbole when discussing Jackie's novels; he probably chats too much about his own career, and digresses too waywardly. (""I've got just one more story to tell before we get back to Josephine."") But warm, fierce Jackie herself comes through loud, clear, and believable here--her loyalty to friends, her bitchiness (a couple of hilarious insult-sessions), her stubbornness, her unabashed but harmless hedonism. (Limos, room service, furs.) There are juicy glimpses of the media biz--from Michael Korda's editing to international paperback deals. And while fans of the novels will of course be the primary, enraptured audience for this memoir, others will be caught up by the varied anecdote-parade (a drunken Johnny Carson, a bitter Duchess of Windsor)--or by the genuine, if tough and glossy, love-story of the Mansfield marriage.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Bantam