Controversial, a global icon, a diva among divas---Barbra Streisand, the last genuinely unique show business personality of the twentieth century is the most honored entertainer in the world today. But along with the Tony, two Oscars, six Emmys, eight Grammys, ten Golden Globes, fifty gold albums, and wild acclaim have come wildly diverse reactions to a personality as outsized as her talent. In the words of Streisand herself, "I'm a liberal, opinionated Jewish feminist---I push a lot of buttons."
In Tom Santopietro's witty yet analytical look at this one-of-a-kind career, the myths and personal foibles are stripped away, and the focus lands squarely on the work. From the early recordings to the groundbreaking television specials, from the Hollywood blockbusters to the history-making comeback concerts, Streisand's career is placed within an oftentimes uniquely American social context but always allowed to speak for itself. In a brisk, funny, and always compelling style, The Importance of Being Barbra reveals all the milestones in a new and sometimes startling light, ranging from the brilliance of Funny Girl and The Broadway Album to the misbegotten yet curiously popular A Star Is Born.
Treating Barbra Streisand like the serious artist she is---and has always claimed to be---The Importance of Being Barbra delves into the key reasons for her all-encompassing success: the overwhelming ambition, the notorious perfectionism, the fervent gay following, the dramatic pull of a voice and style that mysteriously connect with the lovelorn all around the world. A full-scale examination of the acting, singing, and directing that have ranged from the dazzling to the occasionally inexplicable---it's all here for anyone who has ever wondered at the phenomenon that is Barbra Streisand.
Theater manager Santopietro writes a decorous, dry analysis of " berdiva" Barbra Streisand, examining five decades of recordings, concerts, film, theater and politics. He analyzes Streisand as a "walking mass of contradictions," parsing those paradoxes through critical readings of her professional and personal gambits. Just as Streisand's "Brooklyn-ese" fades from her rich singing voice, so her stage and studio persona tightly controlled masks a diffidence in the limelight that just feeds her fans' interest. For these folks, the seminal sound bites of her career, from "Hello, gorgeous" to "So long, dearie," constitute the narrative's few flashes of energy, evoking Streisand in more glory than can be conveyed here. Santopietro astutely embeds his subject in cultural context to underscore her zeitgeist appeal; her brash urgency and in-your-face ethnicity, epitomized in "the nose," endears her to those out of the mainstream, including feminists and gays, and, in the '60s, augured the demise of pre-Vietnam dormancy. A prototype of postmodern celebrity, Streisand cultivated her own image, embellishing her "ugly duckling" myth through autobiographical roles. The author's discerning, nuanced critiques of Streisand's works depict a career of subtle evolution not without its setbacks, shedding welcome light on her uneven reception over the years. But his scholarly cant will perplex readers expecting a juicier read. Photos.
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I have read a number of Streisand biographies and while they all go over the same material I am always compelled by what she has done in her life and how she has survived. I downloaded this book on a lark to have something to read of my iPad that wasn't fiction or history. Big mistake. I honestly cannot think of one redeeming quality of this book. And I read the whole thing! I guess the one good thing is that it is pretty short. It is terribly organized. One chapter devoted to each creative medium she has worked in plus "politics" makes for a mishmash, non-organic and absolutely no context for the work she has produced. The author glosses over entire sections of life and work no little reason. You get no sense of who Streisand is. The author belabors over and over again that gay men and outsiders pulled for Streisand because she was/is "like them". Okay, there maybe some merit to this . . . But it is repeated so often and is the simplistic conclusion this guy goes to anytime he needs filler. Worse than all these sins (and there are many more -- the bad grammar and typos to begin with) the book is really about the author's opinion about Streisand's work. Okay so he has bias, we all like different things, but this guy acts like they are fact. No, actually he is wrong much of the time. The most telling piece of this sophomoric drivel is he closes this sorry excuse for a biography with letter grades for each of her movies, TV shows and albums. Please! Don't waste your time.