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The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan…
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The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup

by Susan Orlean

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Engaging. Probably more so for the author's fellow New Yorkers, and more so at the times each essay was contemporary. Now it's dated (most by over 3 decades, no cell phones and only a couple of car phones). It could be read as history - getting a look at celebrities before they became big - but sometimes it read as if the author either 1. had an eye for ppl who were over-hyped (Fab Five Freddy) or 2. were going to be jinxed by the appearance of Orlean's essay (pop star Tiffany).

I do appreciate Orlean's detachment. Seldom do we get glimpses of her personality, or even of her strategies re' meeting up with these ppl and getting them to share their lives and perspectives with her. Iow, she's the opposite of Bill Bryson, which I appreciate *very* much.

And these are 'extraordinary' people. Then again, they're extraordinary in the sense that millions of ppl are. Her essays help a reader to realize that everyone has a story, everyone we meet could very well have something going on in their lives worth writing & reading about.

Otoh, these mini-bios are also fluffy. I had to flip through the book to pull up examples for these comments, as I've already forgotten most of the folks profiled. The few I remember were the few I googled, to find out 'where are they now.' ... So... one good thing about it being a relatively old book is that it is of historical interest. What was it like for a popular professional clown in NYC to manage his schedule, and his assistants' schedules, with no cell or car phone, for example? And it's maybe good that we can google our favorite personalities and learn more about them, and check whether they were successful.

So. 2.5 stars, rounded up because it's not Orleans' fault that I don't live in NYC and didn't read this closer to when it came out, in 2000. Still, not particularly recommended. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Great writing used to describe some really interesting people. ( )
  magerber | Feb 22, 2016 |
I gave this 4 stars because: In on story she used "and" rather than commas, which was completely annoying and I didn't like all of her stories.

I especially liked the stories on the Southern Gospel singers & their traveling show, The Fish Market window designer, the ten-year old "perfect America man, the New York City apartment broker, the only buttons-only store, Bill Blass, the Hana Surfer Girls, and the Ashanti King who drives a Taxi Cab.

The other stories were interesting as well... I certainly wanted more about the Torera, it was definitely lacking personal input.....

The Library I work in does not own a copy, but they will tomorrow as I am adding the one I got from the book sale to the collection! ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |
Short pieces on extraordinary people. Good! ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Though I do like Orlean's writing style, a book of just her profiles became monotonous. By the end, I felt as if I was reading the same story over and over again with minor details changed. That being said, though, I think my complaints are based in the fact that her voice is so clear. I will definitely continue to read Orlean's work, I just don't think I'll pick up another collection of just Orlean. ( )
  lucyh | May 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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I always wanted to be a writer. In fact, as far as I can recall, I have never wanted to be anything other than a writer.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375758631, Paperback)

Susan Orlean, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief, has always been drawn to the extraordinary in the ordinary, so when her Esquire editor asked her to profile the child actor Macaulay Culkin using the title "The American Man at Age Ten," she insisted instead on writing about a "typical" kid. The result--one of the 20 profiles drawn from magazines such as Esquire, The New Yorker, and Rolling Stone for this collection--is a vivid window into the life of an ordinary and endearing boy from New Jersey who grapples with girls, environmental destruction, and the magical childhood landscape "that erodes from memory a little bit every day." Orlean has two tricks up her sleeve that make her profiles irresistible. First, she's got a mean hook. Take this lead: "Of all the guys who are standing around bus shelters in Manhattan dressed in nothing but their underpants, Marky Mark is undeniably the most polite." Second, she has an uncanny way of drawing her subjects. Bill Blass "is a virtuoso of the high-pitched eyebrow and the fortissimo gasp," while a boxer (the dog kind) wears "the earnest and slightly careworn expression of a small-town mayor."

Orlean is a New Yorker herself, and most of her subjects hail from the Big Apple, including such unique personas as a real estate broker who can describe the inside of almost any apartment in the city ("Walking down a Manhattan street with her is a paranormal experience"); Nat, the new tailor at Manhattan Valet; her hairdresser; the city's most popular clown; an Ashanti king who drives a taxi; and the owner of the only buttons-only store in America. The author is keenly observant and always tries to walk in her subject's shoes, even when it's a show dog ("If I were a bitch, I'd be in love with Biff Truesdale"). When she does tackle the rich and famous, she uses these same talents to create portraits so intimate and zesty they're unlike any other. Orlean writes that her only justification for choosing a story is that she cares about it, and it shows. Her fondness for her subjects rubs off as she draws us into the tight and exquisite focus of their mundane and fascinating lives. --Lesley Reed

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:14 -0400)

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