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Download Robert Altman: The Oral Biography Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, by Mitchell Zuckoff Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (153 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mitchell Zuckoff Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9781415966495
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Robert Altman—visionary director, hard-partying hedonist, eccentric family man, Hollywood legend—comes roaring to life in this rollicking cinematic biography, told in a chorus of voices that can only be called Altmanesque.

His outsized life and unique career are revealed as never before: here are the words of his family and friends, and a few enemies, as well as the agents, writers, crew members, producers, and stars who worked with him, including Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Paul Newman, Julie Christie, Elliott Gould, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams, Cher, and many others. There is even Altman himself, in the form of his exclusive last interviews.

After an all-American boyhood in Kansas City, a stint flying bombers through enemy fire in World War II, and jobs ranging from dog-tattoo entrepreneur to television director, Robert Altman burst onto the scene in 1970 with the movie M*A*S*H. He revolutionized American filmmaking and, in a decade, produced masterpieces at an astonishing pace: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye, 3 Women, and, of course, Nashville. Then, after a period of disillusionment with Hollywood—as well as Hollywood’s disillusionment with him—he reinvented himself with a bold new set of masterworks: The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park. Finally, just before the release of the last of his nearly forty movies, A Prairie Home Companion, he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement from the Academy, which had snubbed him for so many years.

Mitchell Zuckoff—who was working with Altman on his memoirs before he died—weaves Altman’s final interviews, an incredible cast of voices, and contemporary reviews and news accounts into a riveting tale of an extraordinary life. Here are page after page of revelations that force us to reevaluate Altman as a man and an artist and to view his sprawling narratives with large casts, multiple story lines, and overlapping dialogue as unquestionably the work of a modern genius.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Zuckoff] doesn’t try to resolve the many contradictions surrounding Altman’s life and work, but lets them stand awkwardly beside one another for the reader to sort out…As a form, the oral biography is well suited to a director who lived the sound of noisy conversation.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “A big, comprehensive, flesh-and-blood account of Altman’s persona and exploits. . . . [A] sprawling, many-faceted story. Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • Quite special. . . . This is a smart, amusing, lively book, full of anecdotes and a generous step towards perceiving the glorious and perverse ways of Altman himself. . . . We owe him plenty. David Thomson, The New Republic
  • Invaluable, ingenious and formally unique. . . . Sprawling, cacophonous, contradictory, loopy, laugh-out-loud funny. . . . Something that resembles an Altman film. . . . Altman, that bearded bastard, would have loved it. David Fear, Time Out New York
  • I just now put [Robert Altman: The Oral Biography] down feeling heartbroken but happily and deeply inspired. . . . Wonderful. Wes Anderson
  • Zuckoff’s biography is like his subject’s movies, filled with a multiplicity of voices and averse to defining ‘meaning.’  Yet in the end, readers understand Altman’s stubborn vision, his refusal to compromise with commerce, and his hard-earned, eccentric genius. Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe
  • [Zuckoff] uses a light editorial hand, allowing a wide range of contributors to have their say. . . . A comprehensive, 360-degree look at a complicated subject. Toby Young, Wall Street Journal
  • A positively ‘Altmanesque’ treatment. . . . [Altman] made a great Western, a great anti-war movie, a great period piece, a great detective picture, a great ballet movie and the how-Hollywood-works movie. And Zuckoff . . . is an apt choice to corner an old fast-talker like Altman. Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
  • [There are] many surprising and revealing comments that Zuckoff has assembled in his fittingly rambling book. . . . Life is complicated, often messy—as Altman showed us—and his life, as seen in Zuckoff’s book, was no exception. San Francisco Chronicle
  • [A] fitting tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest directors. . . . A rebel to the end, Altman’s spirit is perfectly captured in this fascinating read. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • An engrossing, comprehensive book that gives invaluable insight into the life and work of a truly original artist. Kirkus Reviews

  • “[Zuckoff] uses a light editorial hand, allowing a wide range of contributors to have their say…A comprehensive, 360-degree look at a complicated subject.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[There are] many surprising and revealing comments that Zuckoff has assembled in his fittingly rambling book…Life is complicated, often messy—as Altman showed us—and his life, as seen in Zuckoff’s book, was no exception.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Like Altman’s signature soundtracks, this babel of transcripts offers a panoramic portrait.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Splendidly well-assembled…Altman made amazing films, which Zuckoff’s far-reaching interviews illuminate, and by all the included accounts, he led an amazing life.”

    Morning News

  • “[A] marvelous, epic, tapestry-like life-scape of Robert Altman…Witness by witness, Zuckoff constructs an exemplary and cautionary American life…Funny, tragic, and compelling tales.”

    Directors Guild Quarterly

  • “A positively ‘Altmanesque’ treatment…[Altman] made a great Western, a great anti-war movie, a great period piece, a great detective picture, a great ballet movie, and the how-Hollywood-works movie. And Zuckoff…is an apt choice to corner an old fast-talker like Altman. Put this oral biography on your book list.”

    Orlando Sentinel

  • “A fun read, more like a cocktail-party remembrance than a scholarly study…Recollections of movies that strike a chord are so entertaining you’ll think about adding them to your Netflix queue to see them again.”

    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  • “Zuckoff’s biography is like his subject’s movies, filled with a multiplicity of voices and averse to defining ‘meaning.’ Yet in the end, readers understand Altman’s stubborn vision, his refusal to compromise with commerce, and his hard-earned, eccentric genius.”

    Boston Globe

  • “I just now put [Robert Altman] down feeling heartbroken but happily and deeply inspired…Wonderful.”

    Wes Anderson

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randine | 2/7/2014

    " EXCELLENT biography. I learned how actors ADORED Altman and what a truly unique director he was. You also learn how incredibly difficult it is to finance a film and how Altman bullied his way through the studios and the money. Felt like an honest portrait. Talk about a free spirit.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Florence | 2/5/2014

    " The oral biography style was very engaging. By the last page I felt like I had known Altman and mourned his death. Curiously, I though he was self-centered and verbally abusive to many colleagues but I became more sympathetic as he grew older. Many of those interviewed said that he mellowed, so perhaps that is why I came to like him better. His artistic integrity was never negotiable and he is to be admired for that quality. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ryan Van Runkle | 2/2/2014

    " Great conversational tone. Like sitting at the kitchen table, telling jokes and tales about a legend in American life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 1/13/2014

    " Very comprehensive look at Altman's career. Nobody had neutral feelings about him. Now is time to rewatch some of the great films like Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Gosford Park and hunt down the few I haven't seen. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Walter | 1/12/2014

    " Like many others, I'm hoping an in depth analysis of O.C. and Stiggs will be found in this book. And I guess The Long Goodbye,too; but if not...well, that's OK with me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rob | 11/21/2013

    " Easily one of the best film biographies I've ever read, with a cast as star-studded as any Altman film. I couldn't put it down! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Johnnm | 11/2/2013

    " An entertaining read of a more entertaining subject. A fun oral biography. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Miriam | 10/13/2013

    " Almost done. A completely absorbing study of Altman - very clever, I thought, to have the multiple voices. Obviously Altmanesque. I wanted more on the making of the movies, but I thought it did a decent job of providing a relatively balanced view (not that I know him at all) of the man. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 M. Sarki | 7/18/2013

    " Very nice work. With all the interviews by the people who knew Robert Altman the best, I feel we got a very good picture of the man as well as the artist. He was a fine director who appreciated people who worked hard both in their art and play. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Obxboy | 3/10/2013

    " A very enjoyable read, although oral biographies are my favorite type, so I'm a bit prejudiced. I would have liked an even further in-depth examination of Altman's films. For that reason, I ordered 'Altman on Altman.' "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean Fennessey | 2/6/2013

    " Maybe the single most inspiring book I've ever read. Failure comes as easily as success. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam Baber | 12/10/2012

    " so awesome it left me speechless "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robert | 9/16/2012

    " Decent oral biography of the man, but suffers by not really going in-depth on some of the work. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sherrie | 10/23/2011

    " A biography that manages to be comprehensive AND entertaining, taking on the rhythms and cadences of everyone's memories so as to mimic Altman's greatest works themselves, crammed to the gills with charming, eccentric people - I think I read this in two or three long, happy sittings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 K Nolfi | 5/31/2011

    " This book is incredible. I wish I had read it among company and not alone at night and on the bus because I wanted to share some of these very funny and crazy stories. I love oral biographies--this is as good or better than Edie's. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthia Kane | 8/4/2010

    " I love Altman's films - the ones that succeeded and the ones that "failed"; he was a true cinematic artist. This was a quick and entertaining read that reminded me to relook at all the films. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Corey | 6/20/2010

    " A fascinating biography, told appropriately in a chorus of voices, eminently readable. It's a fitting tribute to a brilliant director, maybe the best America has produced. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Obxboy | 5/30/2010

    " A very enjoyable read, although oral biographies are my favorite type, so I'm a bit prejudiced. I would have liked an even further in-depth examination of Altman's films. For that reason, I ordered 'Altman on Altman.' "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sean | 2/18/2010

    " Maybe the single most inspiring book I've ever read. Failure comes as easily as success. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthia | 1/18/2010

    " I love Altman's films - the ones that succeeded and the ones that "failed"; he was a true cinematic artist. This was a quick and entertaining read that reminded me to relook at all the films. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 12/30/2009

    " Very comprehensive look at Altman's career. Nobody had neutral feelings about him. Now is time to rewatch some of the great films like Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Gosford Park and hunt down the few I haven't seen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Miriam | 12/6/2009

    " Almost done. A completely absorbing study of Altman - very clever, I thought, to have the multiple voices. Obviously Altmanesque. I wanted more on the making of the movies, but I thought it did a decent job of providing a relatively balanced view (not that I know him at all) of the man. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robert | 12/4/2009

    " Decent oral biography of the man, but suffers by not really going in-depth on some of the work. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Monica | 12/2/2009

    " A very good book in terms of getting even more insight into Altman the man.

    Incidentally (or not???), he was a serious weed smoker but now I know he toked into his old age. Pot brownies at the Oscars. "

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