Florence!  Foster!!  Jenkins!!!    (Darryl W. Bullock)   (The Overlook Press)
Item# B1863
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Florence!  Foster!!  Jenkins!!!    (Darryl W. Bullock)   (The Overlook Press)
B1863. FLORENCE! FOSTER!! JENKINS!!!, The Life of the World’s Worst Opera Singer (Darryl W. Bullock). New York, The Overlook Press, 2016, 198pp.; Index; Bibliography; Photos; DJ. Final hardbound copies!

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“Under 200 pages, which is the length of Darryl W. Bullock’s charming FLORENCE! FOSTER!! JENKINS!!!, is just about right for those who want to know more about the world’s worst opera singer but might not want to know absolutely every detail.

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins is quite astonishing. Born into a wealthy Pennsylvania family in 1868, she showed a strong early interest in music and the arts and succeeded in graduating from a music academy. She made an unsatisfactory marriage to a physician, and when this ended in divorce she enjoyed the life of a socialite in New York. After her father’s will ‘mysteriously vanished’ from his office safe, she succeeded, with her mother, to his extremely large estate and took up residence in a Manhattan hotel. There she conducted the life of a patroness of the arts, assisted and encouraged by an English actor, St Clair Bayfield, with whom she entered into what the couple described as a secret marriage.

Then the performances started in earnest, and over the years she established a considerable reputation for singing at the soirees of the various clubs and societies she supported, attracting an enthusiastic audience of well-heeled New Yorkers. They loved her. They loved her elaborate, ridiculous costumes; they loved her overdramatic gestures. They presented her with bouquet after bouquet as well as expensive jeweled trinkets to show how much they appreciated her efforts. But she couldn’t sing. She was gloriously, spectacularly, irredeemably out of tune.”

- Alexander McCall Smith, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 Aug., 2016





“One of the daunting aspects of biography, from the reader’s point of view, is length, which is why we like obituaries. An obituary gives us a life in under a page — and for some lives that’s as much as we feel we need. The 600- or 700-page biography, complete with lengthy lists of sources, can be tough going. Under 200 pages, which is the length of Darryl W. Bullock’s charming FLORENCE! FOSTER!! JENKINS!!!, is just about right for those who want to know more about the world’s worst opera singer but might not want to know absolutely every detail.

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins is quite astonishing. Born into a wealthy Pennsylvania family in 1868, she showed a strong early interest in music and the arts and succeeded in graduating from a music academy. She made an unsatisfactory marriage to a physician, and when this ended in divorce she enjoyed the life of a socialite in New York. After her father’s will ‘mysteriously vanished’ from his office safe, she succeeded, with her mother, to his extremely large estate and took up residence in a Manhattan hotel. There she conducted the life of a patroness of the arts, assisted and encouraged by an English actor, St Clair Bayfield, with whom she entered into what the couple described as a secret marriage.

Then the performances started in earnest, and over the years she established a considerable reputation for singing at the soirees of the various clubs and societies she supported, attracting an enthusiastic audience of well-heeled New Yorkers. They loved her. They loved her elaborate, ridiculous costumes; they loved her overdramatic gestures. They presented her with bouquet after bouquet as well as expensive jeweled trinkets to show how much they appreciated her efforts. But she couldn’t sing. She was gloriously, spectacularly, irredeemably out of tune.

Not that this stopped her. She once observed that although some people said she couldn’t sing, they could never say she didn’t sing. Nothing was too difficult for her to attempt — not even Mozart’s notoriously demanding ‘Queen of the Night’ aria. Higher and higher she would go, squeaking and clinging on to the notes, taking her audience with her in sheer delight at her audacity. And when it came to recordings, she tackled these in a single take, apparently believing the excruciating results were incomparably good.

Bullock deals with all this in a thoroughly readable and entertaining way. His explanation of how she got away with it is convincing: She was loved, she was magnanimous, and she brought happiness and laughter to those fortunate enough to get tickets to her concerts. Why shouldn’t one get away with something like that, if that is the sort of person one is? We all love sheer slapstick failure, particularly when it’s clothed in camp and presented as high art. Florence Foster Jenkins was Tintin’s Bianca Castafiore and Groucho Marx’s Margaret Dumont rolled into one. What’s not to love in that?”

- shelf-awareness.com, 23 October 2017





“Madame Jenkins couldn't carry a tune in a bucket: despite that, in 1944 at the age of 76, she played Carnegie Hall to a capacity audience and had celebrity fans by the score. Her infamous 1940s recordings are still highly-prized today. In his well-researched and thoroughly entertaining biography, Darryl W. Bullock tells of Florence Foster Jenkins meteoric rise to success and the man who stood beside her, through every sharp note.

Florence was ridiculed for her poor control of timing, pitch, and tone, and terrible pronunciation of foreign lyrics, but the sheer entertainment value of her caterwauling packed out theatres around the United States, with the 'singer' firmly convinced of her own talent, partly thanks to the devoted attention for her husband and manager St Clair Bayfield. Her story is one of triumph in the face of adversity, courage, conviction and of the belief that with dedication and commitment a true artist can achieve anything.”

- www.goodreads.com