Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup

The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People
by Susan Orlean
Random House Publishing, 2002
Trade Paperback, 311 pages
ISBN-13: 9780375758638
highly recommended

From the Publisher
... Meet more than thirty-five of
Susan Orlean's favorite people from the well known (Bill Blass and Tonya Harding) to the unknown (a typical ten-year-old boy) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group the Shaggs).

Orlean transports us into the lives of some rather eccentric individuals, like the man who has spent thirty years selling nothing but ceiling fans; or Bob Silverstein, maker of the Big Chair the creme de la creme of oversized chairs used for novelty photographs at carnivals. Others are living highly unusual lives, like Cristina Sanchez, the eponymous bullfighter, the first woman to become a matador in Spain; or the African king who drives a taxi in New York City and keeps his throne in his living room..... Orlean writes with such insight and candor that readers will feel as if they've met each and every one of these unconventional folks.

Susan Orlean brings her wry sensibility, exuberant voice, and peculiar curiosities to a fascinating range of subcultures sports and music and hairdressing and real estate, among others. The result is a joyful, luminous tour of the human condition via an eclectic array of people, as seen through the eyes of one of America's most entertaining and original literary journalists.
My Thoughts:

This is a collection of published pieces (from 1986 - 2001) written by Susan Orlean, that focus on people, character studies. As she said in the introduction: "For this book, though, I decided to gather together only pieces that center on people, to present an assembly of the various characters I've profiled so far in my career. There is nothing harder or more interesting than trying to say something eloquent about another person and no process is more challenging. (pg xv) In the back is a list of the stories included, along with the magazines and the date of the issue when the stories originally appeared.

I thought most of these profile pieces were interesting - some more than others. All in all it was a nice collection of Orlean's writing. The fact that Orlean is a very good writer elevates most of these stories above the ordinary. Highly Recommended


...I wanted to write about things that intrigued me, and to write about them in a way that would surprise readers who might not have expected to find these things intriguing. introduction, pg ix

Depending upon who you ask, The Shaggs were either the best band of all time or the worst. pg. 15

If I were a bitch, I'd be in love with Biff Truesdale. Biff is perfect. He's friendly, good looking, rich, famous, and in excellent physical condition. He almost never drools. He's not afraid of commitment. He wants children - actually, he already has children and wants a lot more. He works hard and is a consummate professional, but he also knows how to have fun. pg. 27

The Hana girls dominate Maui surfing these days. Theory has it that they grow up riding such mangy waves that they're ready for anything. pg. 39

Jill Meilus is a New York City real estate broker. Like Superman, she can see through walls. Walking down a Manhattan street with her is a paranormal experience. pg. 73

The gospel audience is probably the poorest of any mass audience in the country, and there are a thousand ways, like working at a Kmart or doing construction, that most gospel singers could make more money than they do by singing gospel; and most gospel singers don't make enough from their music to live on. pg. 86

Diana Epstein recently bought seventeen thousand buttons, sight unseen, from the city of Tempe, Arizona, and the other day she invited us over to watch as she opened boxes, suitcases, and an entire trunk full of buttons to find out what she now owned. pg. 134

Kwabena Oppong, who is the king and supreme ruler of the African Ashanti tribespeople living in the United States of America, has a throne in his living room. pg. 201

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