Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 37

by Richard Foster
Birch Lane Press

       When I first heard about this book it disturbed me. I knew that sooner or later somebody would do a skeleton-hunt through Bettie Page’s sizable closet, and I knew that I would be partially to blame for any discomfort she felt by the invasion of her privacy. My investigations centered on her professional career, and the unhappy personal things I discovered about her personal life were never reported in THE BETTY PAGES. My work on her career inadvertently helped fuel an international fad, and dozens of reporters  followed my tracks for years.
       I’m very close to the subject matter covered in THE REAL BETTIE PAGE, so my review might be biased, but I think it is honest.
       THE REAL BETTIE PAGE isn’t a bad book. Foster has done his homework and legwork, and it's a very complete telling of the Bettie saga.  Building on leads found in THE BETTY PAGES, the Karen Essex bio, a few other sources, and a letter from Bettie, Foster has stitched together his own version of the life and times of Bettie Page. For the most part the book is accurate, and at times groundbreaking in its information. Almost all of the important players are quoted, most of the important events are chronicled, and the work gives us a clear picture of the rise and fall of the Queen of Curves. There are some pretty pictures as well. What the book lacks is a compassion for the subject, and lack of passion from its author. The book is factual but THE REAL BETTIE PAGE has no soul.
       A strong theme would have helped tie this sprawling project together, but without a point of view the text becomes a chain of facts and not much more. Instructional but impersonal. The story should have been gripping and heartbreaking, but we never get close to the real drama. Foster’s view of Bettie lacks warmth and humor, and he’s failed to capitalize on our pre-established admiration of Ms. Page. We want to like her, but the book only elicits pity.
       Clearly, Foster is out of his depth and very naive when dealing with this type of charged sexual material.
       If you want all of the sad details for Bettie’s life THE REAL BETTIE PAGE is for you.

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