Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: Diana Ross: A Biography

Diana Ross: A Biography Diana Ross: A Biography by J. Randy Taraborrelli
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It doesn't take long to divine Taraborrelli's opinion of himself in this book: it begins with a quote from Miss Ross herself telling him how he knows her better than any biographer. Yes, the first words of the biography are about him, not her. And this reviewer found this writer's constant references to "this writer" (rather than simply "I" or "me") to be tiresome and pompously self-serving.

Now, having written two previous biographies of the Motown superstar, he's returning to squeeze the last bit of milk from his cash cow.

To be fair, despite being an unashamed fan, Taraborrelli is even-handed. It's long been alleged that Ross is an uncompromising, career-focused manipulator and, despite his obvious love for her as an artist, he's quite happy to show her in this unflattering light. He even colludes with the consensus that Ross was miscast in The Wiz when a one-eyed fan might have presented it as a triumph. This is by no means a hagiography. Its failings lie elsewhere.

The book is over-long and excessively detailed, with the accumulation of facts valued far above writing style. Taraborrelli is meticulous at the expense of readability and his prose is workmanlike and uninspired, as if he's desperate to collate every scrap of source material rather than tell a story. And yet the opposite is true when it comes to the photos. Nearly all of them are PR shots taken from the glory years 1966-68, giving a frustratingly incomplete picture.

In the end we don't learn much about Ross that we didn't already know. We just know it in more detail. A lot, lot more detail.

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