Frank Sinatra and the Scandalous but Scholarly Biography

Gopnick-Sinatra-Scandalous-Scholarly-Biography-320x324-1448393070Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker:

Having come out of the closet, or the casino, not long ago, as an unqualified Frank Sinatra idolater, I approached the second volume of James Kaplan’s biography of the singer (“Sinatra: The Chairman”) with what our critical mothers and fathers would have called immense trepidation, since the book would have to deal not just with the great man’s best records but with his messy entanglement with the mob and his sad, stultified later years. (I saw him perform once, toward the very end, at Madison Square Garden, and it was like seeing the dead El Cid mounted on his horse to lead the Spanish Army: noble but undeniably stiff.)

Kaplan’s book turns out to be, to continue in the old reviewers’ language, hugely readable, vastly entertaining, a page-turner, and all the rest. But it’s also interesting as a fine instance of a strikingly newish kind of thing: the serious and even scholarly biography of a much gossiped-over pop figure, where the old Kitty Kelley-style scandal-sheet bio is turned into a properly documented and footnoted study that nonetheless trades on, or at least doesn’t exclude, the sensational bits.

more here.