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Louise Brooks

A Biography

2000
Author:

Barry Paris

Louise Brooks

The long-awaited republication of this captivating account of the star’s life.

In this widely acclaimed, first and only comprehensive biography, Barry Paris traces Brooks’s trajectory from her childhood through her fall into obscurity and subsequent "resurrection" as a brilliant writer and enduring film icon.

"Star biographies don’t get any better than Barry Paris’s Louise Brooks." USA Today

Quite the best star biography I’ve ever read-a miracle. But what makes it work is that it isn’t really a star biography at all. It’s the long-awaited, never-thought-possible Great Hollywood Novel. It is a moving, heart-breaking portrait of a character as compelling as Madame Bovary or Lady Brett Ashley or anyone else you care to think of and be haunted by.

Steven Bach, author of Final Cut

Louise Brooks left Wichita, Kansas, for New York City at age fifteen and lived the kind of life of which legends are made. From her beginnings as a dancer to her years in Hollywood, Berlin, and beyond, she was hailed and reviled as a new type of woman: independent, intellectually daring, and sexually free. In this widely acclaimed, first and only comprehensive biography, Barry Paris traces Brooks’s trajectory from her childhood through her fall into obscurity and subsequent "resurrection" as a brilliant writer and enduring film icon.


Louise Brooks

Barry Paris is an award-winning biographer, film and music critic, and contributor to the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and other publications. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Louise Brooks

Quite the best star biography I’ve ever read-a miracle. But what makes it work is that it isn’t really a star biography at all. It’s the long-awaited, never-thought-possible Great Hollywood Novel. It is a moving, heart-breaking portrait of a character as compelling as Madame Bovary or Lady Brett Ashley or anyone else you care to think of and be haunted by.

Steven Bach, author of Final Cut

Unquestionably the film biography of the year is Barry Paris’s Louise Brooks-great, provocative reading.

Leonard Maltin, ABC-TV Entertainment Tonight

Louise Brooks is not simply a summary of her movie plots and love affairs but a serious work of film and social history.

New York magazine

Star biographies don’t get any better than Barry Paris’s Louise Brooks.

USA Today

A sensational work-it’s a wow!

Liz Smith, New York Daily News

Brooks was always a turn-on in the dark, and so is this book about her. It [has] the aphrodisiac gloss of Brooks herself: you meet the stare of a modern icon, a picture that taunts your inability to touch the real thing. A necessary and stimulating book, it is itself an important part of Brooks’ life after death. There will be nothing more complete or frightening.

David Thomson in The New Republic

Paris has researched and reported faithfully every aspect of Brooks’s life. The story he tells is fascinating not only for what it says about Brooks, but also for its generous sidelights on the whole jazz-and-flapper age.

John Simon in The Washington Post

The much-talked-about Louise Brooks is among the worthiest Hollywood bios of the year: a synthesis of exhaustive research, written with imaginative sympathy.

Premiere

Thorough and fascinating.

People

Biography, the way it is usually practiced, is pre-doomed by the assumption that the truth of a human life can be known from its documented facts. But in Barry Paris’s excellent biography of Louise Brooks, objectivity and the lack of it coexist simultaneously. His strict adherence to written evidence and his broad interpretation of what constitutes a pertinent fact lead Louise Brooks into fascinating, ambiguous territory. Paris reproduces the complexities and tortured topography of her life without enforcing any one overall interpretation of her actions. His diligence, his solicitude for all the facts, diverts this book away from conventional star worship. Written by anyone less compassionate, Louise Brooks could have been the most squalid, sensational, bathetic biography of this publishing season. But it isn’t, because Paris respects Brooks and her struggle. In the end, he leaves her life open, finally allowing her to write her own corrosive bottom line.

Los Angeles Weekly

Louise Brooks is a most intimidating subject for a biography, yet Barry Paris has met the challenge most impressively. In engrossing style and exhaustive detail, he recounts the public years and reveals all one could hope for from the ‘lost years’ of this mercurial and fascinating personality. He has completed the long-incomplete portrait.

Jack Garner, The Gannett Newspapers

Paris is superb, every detail opening onto another plane or almost subliminally doubling back to an incident charted a hundred pages earlier, the full weight of Brook’s exile coming home with increasing power, right to the end of her life. The second half of the book is riveting: complex, subtle, noisy, finally quiet. You don’t care that Paris can’t solve ‘the mystery.’ You care that a woman lived a life that made it.

Greil Marcus, California magazine

Paris’s book is the one the faithful have been waiting for. The research is exhaustive, the details scrupulously attended, and all enhanced by access to Brook’s unpublished writing. The result is thorough, documented and tangible. Even better, Paris does Brooks two services that propel his book well past for-addicts-only status. He is savvy enough to grasp that half of the Brooks mythology is the setting, and he gives it to us up-close and in the round. But his wisest choice is his deference to Brook’s own voice. He lets her larger statements about the human condition, her own and otherwise, speak for themselves. Brooks’s story is Cinderella rewritten for the apocalypse, and Paris and Brooks tell it straight, twists included.

New York Outweek

A superb biography. Paris’s definitive work shows us why Brooks belongs, if not in the pantheon of film stardom, in the front rank of 20th-century personalities.

San Diego Tribune

Rich, busy, without one boring moment-and Brooks shines.

Kirkus Reviews

Paris manages to tell this story with an unsparing attention to detail which never precludes compassion. It looks like the kind of book you can skim-read, but time and time again it proves too incidentally absorbing: authoritative asides on music, dance, and literature alternative between offbeat tidbits such as the information that ‘between 1918 and 1923, women’s underclothes were reduced to only 10 per cent of those worn by their mothers.’ . . . If Brooks’s screen career was stalled by a fatal combination of petulance and rotten luck, there is some consolation in the thought that she has at least got the kind of biographer she deserved.

Jonathan Coe, London Guardian

Absorbing, wonderfully well researched and, all in all, an exemplar of its kind.

Gilbert Adair, London Spectator

In a short review it is impossible to give even a taste of the splendour of Mr. Paris’s work. It is one of the best biographies I have even read, erudite, literate and always in search of its subject. Never one for the cheap gibe or small-minded anecdote, he is still at all times able to see and render all sides of Ms. Brook’s multi-faceted personality.

The Irish Times (Dublin)

Barry Paris has written the model of a movie biography, and very movingly.

London Daily Express