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THE MAN WHO ATE TOO MUCH

THE LIFE OF JAMES BEARD

A thoughtful appreciation of a central figure in the story of American food culture.

The author of the groundbreaking article, “America, Your Food Is So Gay,” turns a sharp but sympathetic eye on the carefully closeted food writer who celebrated the glories of homegrown ingredients and down-home cooking decades before they were fashionable.

Born in Portland, Oregon, James Beard (1903-1985) told friends later in life that he’d known he was gay since he was 7. During his freshman year at Reed College, he was quietly expelled after being “caught in an act of oral indecency with a professor.” He spent a desultory decade or so trying to make it as an actor and finally hit his stride in New York, where he started a cocktail catering business with an acquaintance made through his prodigious socializing. In 1940, his first book, Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapés, With a Key to the Cocktail Party, began a lifelong tradition of not acknowledging collaborators or the sources of recipes that were sometimes lifted from others and, later in his career, reprinted from his earlier books. What sold even the most mediocre of his books was his larger-than-life personality: “playful and unabashedly queer,” Birdsall notes, but only to those in the know. For average Americans, Beard was simply someone who demystified cooking and invited them to enjoy food as he did. The author’s well-written and knowledgeable text doesn’t scant Beard’s cooking and eating—indeed, luscious descriptions of memorable meals make this an appetite-arousing read—but its major secondary theme is the nature of gay life in midcentury America, where discretion was essential and discovery meant professional ruin and very likely jail. Birdsall’s analysis of Beard’s ambivalent reaction to the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969 is one of the book’s many intelligent passages decoding a worldview built on shame and secrecy, one that made Beard frequently unhappy and lonely despite his fame and success.

A thoughtful appreciation of a central figure in the story of American food culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-63571-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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