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Joe Gould's Teeth
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2016
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Description
From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”
Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly everything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that “The Oral History of Our Time” had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, decided to find out.  

Joe Gould’s Teeth
is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling and ferocious.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/17/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101947593
ASIN:
B015VACH5Y
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Jill Lepore. (2016). Joe Gould's Teeth. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Jill Lepore. 2016. Joe Gould's Teeth. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Jill Lepore, Joe Gould's Teeth. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Jill Lepore. Joe Gould's Teeth. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 19:58:22
Date Updated:
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      • bioText: JILL LEPORE is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her books include the New York Times best seller The Secret History of Wonder Woman and Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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shortDescription
From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called "The Oral History of Our Time."
Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life's work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly everything anyone ever said to him. "I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people," he explained, because "as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry." By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould's manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould...
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title
Joe Gould's Teeth
fullDescription
From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”
Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly everything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that “The Oral History of Our Time” had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, decided to find out.  

Joe Gould’s Teeth
is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling and ferocious.
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reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        March 21, 2016
        This disjointed true-life detective tale from Lepore (The Secret History of Wonder Woman) digs into the story of Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village eccentric who was introduced to the world by Joseph Mitchell’s 1942 New Yorker profile, “Professor Sea Gull.” Gould befriended a group of artist and writers that included E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound, and told anyone who would listen that he was writing a book entitled The Oral History of Our Time. In 1964, following Gould’s 1957 death in a mental hospital, Mitchell wrote what was to be his last New Yorker profile, “Joe Gould’s Secret,” which cast doubt on the existence of the Oral History. The ever-curious and intrepid Lepore sets out to discover whether Gould did indeed ever write a word of his oral history, digging deep into New York University and Harvard archives and leafing through the more than 800 surviving pages of Gould’s diary. Lepore never finds definitive evidence, but the more she learns, the uglier the story gets—including Gould’s fascination with “race pride” and his harassment of African-American sculptor Augusta Savage. She speculates that Gould’s friends contrived his endearing persona as an attempt to save him from institutionalization. Lepore’s book, which itself originated as a New Yorker article, unfortunately comes across as thin and overstretched, and its subject is unlovable and unsympathetic.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        March 15, 2016
        A writer searches for a "holy grail" manuscript of endless words. This extended essay by New Yorker staff writer Lepore (The Secret History of Wonder Woman, 2014, etc.), originally published in the magazine last year, is about a wild goose chase and missing dentures. Joseph Ferdinand Gould (1889-1957), aka Professor Seagull, first became a public figure thanks to New Yorker staff writer Joseph Mitchell. His two essays about Gould were published together as Joe Gould's Secret (1964), which was made into a movie in 2000. The "secret" was his mysterious manuscript, an extensively detailed personal biography/history that was millions of words long and 7 feet high. Lepore describes his Oral History of Our Times as "plainspoken, arresting, experimental, and disordered...endless, and unremitting." She wonders: "It didn't exist. Or did it?" Gould was an eccentric, probably autistic, she believes, who "suffered from gramaphobia"--"he could not stop writing." Often homeless, drunk, or ill, he required little but had friends--Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and others--who would help him out. His close friend, e.e cummings, wrote of him: "b jeezuz, never have I beheld a corpse walking." Like a detective, Lepore describes her mazelike quest, her clues, her dead ends, the many people she met and talked to, the dusty archives visited in a wonderful, sprightly prose lusciously filled with allusions and references. Questions abound. The search led her to a key figure in the Gould mystery: Augusta Savage, an African-American artist who lived in Harlem. Gould knew her and apparently even proposed to her. Could he have given her the manuscript? Borges' great short story about the fictional writer Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote, comes to mind. Lepore is Borges to Gould's Quixote, which was his life writ large...maybe. A fascinating, sharply written, thoroughly engaging jeu d'esprit.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 1, 2016

        Lepore (David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History, Harvard Univ.; staff writer, The New Yorker; The Secret History of Wonder Woman) tells the story of Joe Gould (1889-1957), a curious footnote of the American modernist literary movement, who long claimed to be working on a nine-million-word text, The Oral History of Our Time. Lepore's engaging book charts her adventures tracking down information about Gould and her fruitless search for the unpublished manuscripts (if they ever even existed). What emerges is the tale of a man from an important New England family who made friends and supporters (such as E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound) just as quickly as he made enemies and alienated people. In the pages of The New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell elevated the Oral History to mythical status. Though renowned by the intelligentsia, Gould participated in the eugenics movement and sexually harassed women, including Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage. Lepore's ultimately sad account touches on racism, sexism, alcoholism, and how America's mental health institutions failed Gould, possibly subjecting him to a lobotomy and electroconvulsive therapy. VERDICT This book will delight readers interested in the people's history of literary modernism. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/16.]--Brian Flota, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from February 15, 2016
        Intrepid historian and commanding writer Lepore (The Secret History of Wonder Woman, 2014) investigates the troubling story behind two celebrated New Yorker profiles by staff writer Joseph Mitchell about Joe Gould (18891957), a legendary, indigent eccentric who was taken up by the likes of e. e. cummings and Ezra Pound and who claimed to be writing a massive, groundbreaking book, The Oral History of Our Time. His mission was to write down nearly everything anyone ever said to him, especially in Harlem, in the belief, as he explained, that the average person is just as much history as the ruler or celebrity. Mitchell concluded that Gould's manuscript didn't exist, that the project was mere fantasy, an assertion Lepore decided to challenge. Securing access to newly available archives, she discovered the sad and unsettling truth about Gould's struggles, Mitchell's failings, and the toxicity of their relationship. As she tracks Gould, born to a prominent family, to Harvard, bars, and psych wards, she unveils his disturbing fixation on sex and race, and casts light on two fascinating women, Augusta Savage, an African American artist with whom Gould was dangerously obsessed, and his secret benefactor, psychiatrist Muriel Morris Gardiner. A well-aimed hand grenade of a book, fiercely concentrated in its precision and unflinching in its revelations. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Lepore's exciting approach to hidden and scandalous historical stories is drawing an enthusiastic, ever-growing readership that will be well primed for this thoughtful expose.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

popularity
138
publisher
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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