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The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup

by Susan Orlean

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401844,754 (3.54)3
Susan Orlean's collection of profiles ranges from the well-known (Marky Mark) to the unknown (Colin Duffy, a typical American man, aged ten) to the formerly known (the cult sixties girl group the Shaggs). Orlean meets with Cristina Sanchez, Spain's first fully-qualified female matador, Silly Billy, New York's most successful children's clown, an African king who is a New York taxi-driver, and a champion show dog called Biff, who from a certain angle looks like President Clinton. As in her remarkable bestseller The Orchid Thief, soon to be the basis of Spike Being John Malkovich Jonze's new film, starring Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage, Orlean' s eye for the fascinatingly bizarre and her wonderfully witty way with language make her take on the world utterly original and unique.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 8 (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 |

My brother gave me this book years ago, long before I'd understood that Susan Orlean was and should always be a household name. Then I saw her speak at the 2011 Miami Book Fair International for the debut of "Rin Tin Tin" and understood still further why she is something special. It was definitely time to finally read this book of essays.

Watching Susan Orlean speak is the same thing as reading her essays. This is remarkable because I have always held to the tenet that those who can write well are those who cannot speak well, and vice versa. Her connection with language must be such that what she thinks comes out equally well if she's telling you in person or via a book. In my opinion, this hints at a highly organized mind, or at least one where the lobes are more connected than usual.

Some of these stories are bland. They don't grab you by the seat of your pants and they don't make you want to meet the subjects. (The hairdresser, the fan-shop guy, to name a couple.) But the others? Personality simply lifts off the page and becomes a full-fleshed person in front you, warts and all. I want to meet all the surfer girls on Maui, learn about the Ottoman Empire from the preeminent tennis mom of Bulgaria, hug Tiffany, and I definitely want to ride in a car with Jean Jennings. So will you. ( )
  khage | Sep 23, 2012 |
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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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