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The Memory of All That: Book summary and reviews of The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber

The Memory of All That

George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities

by Katharine Weber

The Memory of All That
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2011
    288 pages
    Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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Book Summary

The Memory of All That is Katharine Weber's memoir of her extraordinary family. 

Her maternal grandmother, Kay Swift, was known both for her own music (she was the first woman to compose the score to a hit Broadway show, Fine and Dandy) and for her ten-year romance with George Gershwin. Their love affair began during Swift's marriage to James Paul Warburg, the multi-talented banker and economist who advised (and feuded with) FDR. Weber creates an intriguing and intimate group portrait of the renowned Warburg family, from her great-great-uncle, the eccentric art historian Aby Warburg, whose madness inspired modern theories of iconography, to her great-grandfather Paul M. Warburg, the architect of the Federal Reserve System whose unheeded warnings about the stock-market crash of 1929 made him "the Cassandra of Wall Street."

As she throws new light on her beloved grandmother's life and many amours, Weber also considers the role the psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg played in her family history, along with the ways the Warburg family has been as celebrated for its accomplishments as it has been vilified over the years by countless conspiracy theorists (from Henry Ford to Louis Farrakhan), who labeled Paul Warburg the ringleader of the so-called international Jewish banking conspiracy. 

Her mother, Andrea Swift Warburg, married Sidney Kaufman, but their unlikely union, Weber believes, was a direct consequence of George Gershwin's looming presence in the Warburg family. A notorious womanizer, Weber's father was a peripatetic filmmaker who made propaganda and training films for the OSS during World War II before producing the first movie with smells, the regrettable flop that was AromaRama. He was as much an enigma to his daughter as he was to the FBI, which had him under surveillance for more than forty years, and even noted Katharine's birth in a memo to J. Edgar Hoover.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Novelist Weber mines her rich family history, hitting the mother lode of pedigreed romances and remembrances…. [they] literally walk off the pages of this captivating multi-generational saga." – Booklist

"A wry portrait of a powerful, talented, but troubled family." – Publishers Weekly

"Rich details of a dazzling but painful family past fraught with betrayals, infidelities and other assorted dysfunctions…. illuminating." – Kirkus Reviews

"I am in awe of the strength, tenacity and courage it took to rise up out of this fabled cast of characters and write one of the most powerful memoirs about inheritance I have ever read." - Dani Shapiro, author of Black and White

"An engaging family memoir that centers on the ardent extra-marital liaison between the author's maternal grandmother, composer Kay Swift, and her eminent colleague George Gershwin.... An entertaining, often poignant book." - Francine du Plessix Gray, author of Them

"A deeply moving book that is resonant and richly rewarding. Katharine Weber's loving and insightful look at her marquee worthy family fundamentally reminds us of our own in its strangeness and complexity. The deeply bonded relationship between her grandmother Kay Swift and lover George Gershwin is finally fully revealed with accuracy and aching poignancy. No one has ever properly told their story, and the combination of Weber's inside family knowledge, assiduous research, and brilliant writing make this an unforgettable and essential read." - Michael Feinstein

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Reader Reviews

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Janet S. (Great Neck Library, NY)

Riveting and Sad Memoir
The rich and famous truly ARE different. In this charmingly told, evocative page-turner, Weber recounts the complex truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale of her parents' and grandparents' marriages and extra-marital relationships. The author unblinkingly examines both the good and the extremely difficult times in the intense relationship between her grandmother Kay Swift and her married grandmother's long-time lover George Gershwin, as well as what it was like to live as a member of an illustrious yet troubled American Jewish family.

Sharon P. (Jacksonville, FL)

The Memory of All That
The subtitle says a lot about the story: "George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities". Though not always a happy one, this is a fascinating story with a large cast of unusual, and often well known, characters. Katharine Weber gives us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the entertainers of a bygone era. A really good read.

Lorelee M. (Placentia, CA)

The Memory of All That
This book was delightful. It is amazing how many names from 20th century history were connected in some way to this family in the arts, politics, and business ventures. The underlying humor and smooth writing made this easy and enjoyable to read.
The myriad of characters and extended family was confusing at times (expecially the FBI activities), but well worth the glimpse into the lives of some prominent , creative, intelligent, and most often wealthy people who were thrown together or crossed paths personally and/or professionally.
I found myself joyfully humming Gershwin tunes for days and being deeply touched by the memories of all the grandmothers who will always hold a special place in our hearts.
"The heart wants what the heart wants" It is destiny.

Lesley F. (San Diego, CA)

Fascinating Tell-all
A well-told history - just when I thought I couldn't hear another thing about S. Kaufman (he reminded me of my ex) - Weber switched to the story of her grandmother and what a gratifying one! It was long ago, so many names are no longer familiar to the reading public but I can understand how time needed to pass before it could be talked about. Those who love a tell-all will love this tale. And what a strong women's story it is!

Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)

THE MEMORY OF ALL THAT
This book was a fascinating read. I wish I had had some background into the Warburg family before starting. The family was a part of the privileged and entitled "upper crust" during the early 20th century. Katherine Weber bravely tells about life with her dysfunctional father who was investigated by the FBI for decades. She then goes on to her grandmother's (Kay Swift) love affair with George Gershwin. Kay Swift was also a promiscuous, fascinating character, who was a renowned composer and pianist.
Katherine Weber shares her life experiences and great compassion with the reader. This is one of my First Impressions that I have lots more to discuss.

Anna S. (Auburn, AL)

The Memory of All That
It is always entertaining to read about the lives of the rich and famous, and the book did not disappoint in this regard. It was somewhat difficult to get into the first part of the book which was mainly about her despicable father. It was amazing to me that the author was able to give a reasonably sympathetic telling of his exploits. I found the second half of the book, about her mother's family, much more interesting. I have always been a huge George Gershwin fan, and particularly enjoyed reading about his relationship with Weber's grandmother, Kay Swift. I had not known previously that she was such an accomplished musician. It is a shame that she has received so little credit for her accomplishments.

...11 more reader reviews

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More Information

Katharine Weber is the author of the novels True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, the cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber. For more information, visit her website at www.katharineweber.com.

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