2011: 10. American Rose

“In late spring, across a stretch of former wasteland in Flushing Meadows, Queens, a quarter million people pay 50 cents each to forget and to dream.”

American Rose, Karen Abbott

      American Rose is a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee.  It’s the real story - the story beyond Gypsy, and Abbott also has the advantage of having talked to Lee’s sister, June Havoc, the “Baby June” of the musical, and a famous actress in her own right.  It’s an interesting story of necessity, since Lee had a fascinating life - becoming world famous for being a stripper is story enough, but on top of that you have the crazy mother, the famous lovers, the childhood in vaudeville (in the Depression desperate 1930’s, no less), not to mention more salacious topics, from gangsters to murder.  

        The problem is that Abbott just isn’t that good of a writer.  Her style is odd - for some reason she wrote the book so that each chapter jumped back in forth from the 1940’s to either earlier or later in Lee’s life, which didn’t really offer much except to muddy the time-line.  More disappointingly, she writes in such a colloquial manner that it’s hard to really get a sense of what happened - it might be the truth, but it doesn’t seem like history. I appreciate she didn’t want to write a dry-as-dust biography, but this ended up reading so conversational that I found my self doubting its veracity - or just wanting another book on the same subject so I could get a sense of what really happened.* 

Categories:  Non-Fiction; Library Book

*And, ha, I just looked at my review of her last book, Sin and the Second City, and realized I made the same comment.  Guess I’m interested in what Abbott has to say - just not how she says it!


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017