"LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG: Remembering the Short Life of James Dean" by John Gilmore

"LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG: Remembering the Short Life of James Dean"

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In a coarse memoir, a longtime friend of the 1950s movie idol recalls his rise to fame, obsession with death, and--in exasperatingly great detail--his bisexual exploits. Gilmore succeeds at conveying the sources of Dean's vulnerability and his preoccupation with death, elements that fueled both Dean's screen persona and his personal life. He adored his devoted mother, who died when Dean was nine; his father disowned him as a weakling. Also effective are Gilmore's recollections of the mass voyeurism that Dean's violent death engendered. He reconstructs dialogue entertainingly (""Some people just think square, man,"" Dean once told him), and Dean's ongoing use of drink and drugs has a ""Gee, Officer Krupke"" innocence to it, limited largely to reefer, bennies, beer, and a flirtation with brandy in an attempt to steal some of Brando's thunder as ""Hollywood's Number One Bad Boy."" But these vivid glimpses of Dean are not enough to counter some bad writing. There are uncomfortable metaphors (""The future looked bright and wide open as a prairie""), tangled syntax (""As a boy during the Second World War I wrote on and off for close to half a century""), and much puffery (""No truer maverick have I ever known""). Add to that too many graphic (and highly Anglo-Saxon) descriptions of Dean's and friends' many varieties of bisexual sex--twoplus-one, with lotion, in black leather to Edith Piaf--and the book becomes more of an assault than a requiem. Had any of these passages contained the wit of Gilmore's description of Dean's sexual proclivities--""Not particularly gay""--they would have been more palatable. Though Gilmore offers insights into the star's troubled life, this book is mainly for Dean fans and devotees of celebrity sex.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth