BARBRA: An Actress Who Sings by James Kimbrell
Kirkus Star

BARBRA: An Actress Who Sings

Email this review


The big Barbra Streisand book, with not much new, perhaps, but with everything honestly worth remembering pasted together or excellently condensed--and altogether admirable. Aside from a handful of interviews, Kimbrell seems to have relied heavily on an extensive Streisand bibliography that is much deeper and richer than is usual with celebrity bios--and he's also come up with an inspired method of telling Streisand's story: backwards. He starts with her latest failed love affair--with TV's Don Johnson (begun when she was 45, he 38)--her latest record, then her live concert at home, then her first song-less film, Nuts, then ""The Broadway Album,"" then the ""Emotion"" album, then her star-directed Yentl, and so on, album by picture by album, as backward reels the mind for decades until--after 400 pages--on April 24, 1942, Barbara Joan Streisand (""so melodic and musical--so lusty and emotional"") is born. The advantage here is that the focus is kept strongly on the works, co-actors, producers, and musicians, all of which Kimbrell analyzes with the fascination only a Streisand maniac might muster. No aspect of any work escapes him, from album covers and photographs to Streisand's deep confabs with composers like Stephen Sondheim about the meanings of their lyrics (the recalcitrant ""Send in the Clowns""). Kimbrell is clearheaded and candid about Streisand's bad press but is also her greatest defender, meeting head-on her critics' lambastings of her for vanity and egomania and for drowning out any surrounding talents with her own bravura: ""This is an artist whose sheer notoriety often precludes appreciation of her vast gift. . .Antagonists hate not her work but the Streisand personality. Even personal adversaries generally acknowledge her talent."" He even persuades you she's beautiful. A very big diamond meant for Barbra's finger.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1989
Publisher: Branden