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Cosby: His Life and Times by Mark Whitaker

Cosby: His Life and Times

by Mark Whitaker

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This is one of those books that is difficult to review, because real life events showed up and broke the facade that many readers have of Bill Cosby. While Whitaker does an excellent job of discussing Cosby’s role and influence on modern comedy and his upbringing and early life, he neglects or writes off many of the allegations such as rape, affairs, gambling problems, and illegitimate children. While the last three are mentioned, briefly, Cosby still comes off looking like a saint and a hero that he was once viewed as.

It is never an easy thing to write a book about someone that has had a prominent voice and an almost fatherly figure for so many, that has faltered and fallen from the pedestal. And Whitaker fails to capture Cosby as a real person, outside of his comedy, and thus doesn’t really give us a full picture of him. As such this is only half of a biography and the rest will have to be written at a later date, by someone that never had him on that pedestal. 2.5 out of 5 stars. ( )
  zzshupinga | Jan 8, 2015 |
Both fiction and non-fiction have their own set of “rules” which needs to be followed in order to make the final product successful.

While fiction can be anything/everything an author creates through the use of mere words; non-fiction can be not only rather dull to write, it can be quite boring to read; just recall the textbooks you needed to read in high school and college, containing one boring fact after another. And of all the various non-fiction subject matters an author can write about, biographies tend be the most daunting, especially if you want to do it well and not lose your audience’s interest in the process.

A person’s life is merely a collection of minutia of personal data; and this is where almost all biographers, in my opinion, fail in presenting this data to their readers in a manner which is not only informative but also entertaining.

Mark Whitaker, on the other, has succeeded in presenting an extensively researched biography of one of America’s best beloved entertainers, Bill Cosby. Mr. Whitaker, it becomes quite apparent as one reads this biography, uses his years of experience of being a reporter and editor at Newsweek, as well that of being the managing editor at CNN to create the work he has produced here.

The episodic approach used in writing this biography makes it read more like a novel than a biography, as each chapter of this book takes us through another phase in the life of Bill Cosby.

Mark Whitaker’s use of the reminiscences of Mr. Cosby and his friends and family, coupled with countless hours of research, followed by the apparent arduous task of gleaning all the information he’s collected into this book, makes each chapter come alive. Each chapter could have been viewed as an item on CNN.

In reviewing this book I feel it is more notable to concentrate on the attributes of the book itself rather than to dwell on any particular portion of the extraordinary life of Bill Crosby.

“COSBY – His Life and Times” by Mark Whitaker is a definite MUST READ for all those who have admired and appreciated any of the work Mr. Crosby has done, as not only as an entertainer or author, but as an educator and humanitarian as well.

I’m therefore not hesitating in giving this book the 5 STARS it so richly deserves.

Please note I had received an early release copy of the final hardcover book through a giveaway drawing on GoodReads; and that the above has been my honest opinion of the book.

Robin Leigh Morgan is the self-published author of “I Kissed a Ghost,” a MG/YA Paranormal romance novel. ( )
  MyPenNameOnly | Oct 6, 2014 |
Basically, I was THOROUGHLY caught up in this book. It's a long read, over 500 pages but completely worth it. The author based this book mostly on information he retrieved from articles, previous interviews from Cosby, and interviews from many people who know him. He only spent about 5 hours talking to Cosby, in bits and pieces, mostly over the phone. And Cosby read the final draft. Not only chronicling Cosby's life, he also places that life in the context of the times, including types of comedians, show business and the television industry, and racism. He talks about Cosby's style of comedic delivery, and that he never used a "canned" routine. Whitaker compares Cosby's comedy to Jazz, that Cosby would just riff on a theme in his laid back easy style and just seemed to enchant people of all races..I found it fascinating that there was so much back story of he and his wife's family, his friendship with Robert Culp, and other media stars and how the movie and tv industry worked. The author talks about Cosby's continuing philanthropy of historic black colleges and education standards for the poor. Also, of interest is knowing those comedic stars that he influenced, among them Jerry Seinfield and Ray Romano. The author notes that Chris Rock says that he was turned on to Cosby by Eddie Murphy who told him that if he ever wanted to be a comedian he needed to listen to Cosby's album "To Russell my brother, whom I slept with." The author does not ignore Cosby's human faults, and even Cosby doesn't want to dwell on them, but they are noted. This has become one of my favorite all time books, ....and now I'm going to find all my old Cosby recordings and play them again. I encourage you to do the same. ( )
  dreplogle | Sep 20, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 145169797X, Hardcover)

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Woody Allen famously said that only creators of serious works get to “sit at the grown-ups’ table.” Comedians, in his self-loathing view, were childish, lesser, not to be respected. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of Mark Whitaker’s Cosby is how forcefully it disproves that notion. According to this detailed and generous account, Bill Cosby, for all his goofy faces, physical comedy, and earnest philosophizing, has done more to change cultural attitudes than just about any “serious” actor ever could. Whether at a Greenwich Village club that also showcased Bob Dylan, or on the beloved 1960s TV show, I Spy, or on his wildly successful eponymous sitcom (1984-92), Bill Cosby became what Whitaker calls entertainment’s Jackie Robinson, smashing racial barriers, teaching hard truths to the black community, leading the way. (Comics as diverse as Richard Pryor and Jerry Seinfeld have acknowledged their debt to Cosby.) Whitaker dutifully takes us through Cosby’s life, from his youth in the Philadelphia projects, through his years at Temple University on a track scholarship, to unimaginable financial success and fame, to the tragic death of his only son and the complications of his 50+ year marriage to the elegant and stalwart Camille Cosby. But if some of the less savory parts of his history—the alleged womanizing and perfectionist temper tantrums—are a bit glossed over, the portrait that emerges here is of a guy who has worked tirelessly and earnestly to change the race conversation in this country, one silly bit at a time. – Sara Nelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:45 -0400)

"The first major biography of an American icon, comedian Bill Cosby. Based on extensive research and in-depth interviews with Cosby and more than sixty of his closest friends and associates, it is a frank, fun and fascinating account of his life and historic legacy. Far from the gentle worlds of his routines or TV shows, Cosby grew up in a Philadelphia housing project, the son of an alcoholic, largely absent father and a loving but overworked mother. With novelistic detail, award winning journalist Mark Whitaker tells the story of how, after dropping out of high school, Cosby turned his life around by joining the Navy, talking his way into college, and seizing his first breaks as a stand-up comedian. Published on the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show, the book reveals the behind-the-scenes story of that groundbreaking sitcom as well as Cosby's bestselling albums, breakout role on I Spy, and pioneering place in children's TV. But it also deals with professional setbacks and personal dramas, from an affair that sparked public scandal to the murder of his only son, and the private influence of his wife of fifty years, Camille Cosby. Whitaker explores the roots of Cosby's controversial stands on race, as well as "the Cosby effect" that helped pave the way for a black president. For any fan of Bill Cosby's work, and any student of American television, comedy, or social history, Cosby: His Life and Times is an essential read. "--… (more)

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