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Down and out in paradise : the life of Anthony Bourdain
2022
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Library Journal Review
Leerhsen's (Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty) latest joins the already-crowded field of Anthony Bourdain biographies, but his well-researched, thoughtful examination of the late Bourdain (1956--2018) claims to not cede to the marketing and protection of Bourdain's legacy but instead uncover the truths of the enigmatic chef's troubled life. Leerhsen is unapologetically honest about Bourdain's outright "obnoxiousness," obsession with fame (it's alleged that he was constantly checking social media for mentions of himself), and mediocrity as both a chef and a fiction writer (as proven by many examples of Bourdain's early writing). Delving into Bourdain's childhood, Leerhsen explores possible reasons for the young man's anger issues. He also examines Bourdain's three main romantic relationships, his complicated friendships with fellow restaurant employees, and his addictive personality. Leerhsen asserts that Bourdain remained an immature adolescent, and his relationship with actress Asia Argento fizzled due to his overwhelming neediness; the book argues that this created a perfect storm of desperation that led to Bourdain's suicide. VERDICT Leerhsen's page-turner provides a well-rounded portrait of Bourdain, acknowledging his many faults as well as his empathy, work ethic, and creativity.--Lisa Henry
Publishers Weekly Review
Biographer Leerhsen (Ty Cobb) delivers an irreverent treatment of chef and reality TV star Anthony Bourdain (1956--2018). Leerhsen sources dozens of interviews and documented conversations to bring light to Bourdain's private relationships, particularly with his parents. Growing up in the upper-class suburb of Leonia, N.J., Bourdain developed, in his own words, a "spoiled romanticism" born of a "smothering chokehold of love and normalcy." He followed his high school crush (and later wife), Nancy, to Vassar College, where he struggled socially and academically before leaving to join the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Leerhsen shows how, while Bourdain grew in confidence at the CIA, he piled on drugs and debt, and later survived several New York City kitchens before landing at the now-famous Les Halles, obsessively scribbling in notebooks all the while. Leerhsen teases from the beginning that Bourdain's tumultuous relationship with Italian actor Asia Argento, which began in 2016, intertwined with the growing desperation that led up to his suicide. Leerhsen also speculates on what that pivotal romance as well as relationships with restaurant owners, and other supporting characters reveal of Bourdain's tortured psyche, despite how guarded his team keeps his posthumous image. Throughout, saucy quips are amply ladled on. It's a three-dimensional view of a man who cultivated authenticity while he was alive, relayed with similarly frank humor. (Sept.)
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