Rob's Blog

February 15th, 2015 – Book: ‘Laughter’s Gentle Soul’ by Billy Altman

by on Feb.15, 2015, under Books

Laughter's Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert BenchleyLaughter’s Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley by Billy Altman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic book that thoroughly tells the life of humorist Robert Benchley. Altman does a great job with research and cohesively piecing a lot of parts together to present this book.

One of the most obvious things about this book is that Altman read all he could about Benchley. To the point that a drawback is the nearly exact lifting of many parts of many books. There is much in this book that I’d already read from books about Benchley or include him. That might be considered bad, but in this case Altman does such a fine job weaving parts of many volumes of books, articles, songs, scripts, that it is impressive.

Reading this is almost like rereading Nathaniel Benchley’s book about his grandfather. The big exception being that Altman carries a lot that Nathaniel wrote and builds upon it. One of the problems of Nathaniel’s book is not telling whole stories in an obvious attempt to skirt around Robert’s drinking and fidelity problems.

I do recommend reading Nathaniel’s book before reading Altman’s due how much both work to paint a portrait of Robert Benchley. I’m glad I read one before the other so that is really helped me see different ways of looking at such a creative genius.

Further praise to Altman for noting the years throughout, something many contemporary biographers do not do.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 out of 10 points.

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