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The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay…
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The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy…

by Katharine Weber

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The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities by Katharine Weber is a family memoir. Weber is the granddaughter of Broadway composer Kay Swift, who was married to banker James Warburg. She had a affair with George Gershwin for ten years. Her mother, Andrea Warburg, married Sidney Kaufman, who was notoriously unfaithful to her. The FBI also kept extensive files on Kaufman. Weber describes her very dysfunctional family, and along the way name-drops a whole host of characters who passed in and out of their lives.

Initially, the title of the book seemed a bit misleading. It really feels like most of the book concerns Weber's parents, especially the poor relationship she had with her father. In fact, I would have to admit that The Memory of All That would have failed the 50 page rule (if you aren't enjoying it by page 50, it is not worth your time) except for I wanted to get to the information about Kay Swift and George Gershwin. I could have done with less disgruntled information about her father. Once she actually gets past her disappointing father and on to other relatives, The Memory of All That does become more interesting.

Although this seems like a negative review, what saves the book from failure is Weber's writing ability. At times Weber is funny, enlightening, informative, and entertaining. Ultimately, all things considered, this is an uneven memoir. A good half of the book details Weber's parents and their failures as parents and in their relationships. If you can get through the first half and onto the rest of her family history and included anecdotes, it becomes more interesting. I can't help but think that this is a memoir that would have benefited from some reorganization in the presentation.

Recommended if you are a Gershwin or Kay Swift fan: http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/

Disclosure: I received this novel through the Goodreads First Reads program
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  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I should really read something else by Katherine Weber, because the very end of this book (dealing with the end of her Grandmother's life) was really lovely, and I caught I glimpse of Weber's skill with words. But mostly I didn't like this book. Weber's childhood was hard. The first half focuses on her father who was unfaithful, as the book's title suggests, but also just a crappy father and husband (and crazy/delusional/narcissistic). It's hard to read. The second half, focused on her grandmother (she of the long-running affair with George Gershwin) is more interesting, and her grandmother was an impressively accomplished woman. I would have preferred a book focused just on that, but perhaps Weber felt she couldn't tell one story without the other. ( )
  cransell | Jan 11, 2014 |
A really interesting hybrid of memoir and good family dish, very bittersweet and often funny. It works on many levels, but a certain tenderness comes through always, and I found the book not only wry and gossipy and smart but ultimately really touching. Families are all odd when you pull back and look at them, and I very much enjoyed this glimpse into a very complex and vibrant set of family dynamics. Well done. ( )
  lisapeet | May 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Knowing nothing about Kay Swift and only the bare minimum about George Gershwin, this book was quite informative for me. However, I had a tough time trying to keep up with the other assorted family members of the author. It was strange that she would write at first about her father and then eventually make it back to Kay Swift and George Gershwin. My husband, who grew up in NYC and knows a lot more about these people also found that strange. Somehow it seems backwards ( )
  yukon92 | Mar 5, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was a challenge and a chore to finish. I typically enjoy memoirs, but this seemed a dramatization of family dysfunction and less about the relationship between Gershwin and Swift. Additionally, the writing style was disjointed and the name-dropping was tedious. Should a reader in the 21st century know social figures of the 20's, 30's & 40's? Even the title falls into pretentious name-dropping, as George Gershwin is a minor character in the overall memoir. ( )
  Jeanomario | Dec 21, 2012 |
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"For readers of Rich Cohen's Sweet and Low, this is a fascinating memoir of an extraordinarily influential American family, from the celebrated author of True Confections, Triangle, and The Music Lesson. The Memory of All That is Katharine Weber's memoir of the rich, strange, and fascinating cast of characters in her family, including her grandmother, Kay Swift, known both for her own music (she was the first woman to compose the score to a hit Broadway show, Fine and Dandy, ) and for her ten-year romance with George Gershwin; her great-grandfather, Paul M. Warburg, the creator of the Federal Reserve System (for which he was vilified by Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and countless conspiracy theorists as the ringleader of the so-called international Jewish banking conspiracy), the model for Annie's Daddy Warbucks, and the man known as the Cassandra of Wall Street for having forecast the Wall Street crash of 1929; and her crazy father, an eccentric filmmaker who made propaganda and training films for the OSS during World War II and who subsequently invented the regrettable and forgettable Aromarama movies (yes, you could smell them). The Memory of All That is an enthralling look at this tremendously influential family as well as a consideration of how their stories--with their myriad layers of truth and fiction--have both illuminated and influenced who Weber is today"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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