Florence! Foster!! Jenkins!!! : the life of the world's worst opera singer

by Darryl W. Bullock

Paper Book, 2016




New York : Overlook Press, 2016.


"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."--Amazon.com.… (more)


½ (7 ratings; 2.7)

User reviews

LibraryThing member akblanchard
Eccentric singer Florence Foster Jenkins (FFJ) (1868-1944) was the laughingstock of the New York City's smart set during the 1930s and 40s. This wealthy heiress was best known for her florid vocal performances and her complete inability to hit the proper notes. Her shows sold out, but she didn't
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understand that underneath their applause and cheers, her adoring audiences were barely suppressing their laughter at her campy costumes and dreadful voice. Wrote one critic, "Jenkins' performances are a catalogue of every vocal fault and failure imaginable" (p. 97). Yet some claim that she was so bad, and so devoted to her art despite the naysayers, that she was good.

On the heels of two recent films about FFJ, a documentary and a feature film starring Meryl Streep, author Darryl Bullock has come out with this brief biography of the woman he calls the "delusional diva" (he is fond of such alliterative formulations). This book is not terribly well-written (see page 74 for an example of how not to write a paragraph), but it does have some insights into FFJ as both a person and as a phenomenon. Bullock points out that FFJ was a product of the women's club milieu, which supported amateur performers' attempts to bring "culture" to the masses. He also suggests that his heroine may have been suffering from either late-stage syphillis or mercury poisoning, but he does not elaborate on how she may have acquired either.

This book will be of interest to FFJ's new fans.
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Physical description

198 p.; 21 cm


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