Recommended Reading

"Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat"

by Edward McPherson (Newmarket Press, 2005, 288 pages)

Sometimes one wonders why an author chooses to write a biography on someone who has already has several published biographies, as well as an autobiography. Quite often it's because some fresh, new material has emerged - which is not the case here. Nevertheless, Edward McPherson's "Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat" is a worthwhile read because he gives us a fresh approach, an approach most of us can identify with - that of a fan. At 253 pages (minus index), it's not a lengthy life story, but it does pay tribute to the great comedian's career with less emphasis on his personal trials and tribulations than some previous efforts. According to McPherson, "This book is merely a fan's notes. It is meant to celebrate an unbelievably fertile tiime in American cinema that was the result of an extraordinary man working under extraordinary circumstances - with absolute artistic freedom . . ." It is interesting to note the he begins his introduction to the book by stating that he is sitting in an auditorium in Muskegon, MI., at the International Buster Keaton Society convention watching people learning to make a porkpie hat. Commendably, it seems McPherson chose this subject to write about out of admiration. He acknowledges previous biographies by Blesh, Dardis and Meade, as well as the sumptuous "Buster Keaton Remembered" by Keaton's widow, Eleanor, and Jeffrey Vance and Keaton's autobiography, "My Wonderful World of Slapstick." McPherson's writing is both respectful and affectionate and does contain a minor misstep here or there, but it is a good introduction for the newer fan or for those who can't get enough of the comic genius. Tom Dardis' "Keaton, The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down" (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979) is still probably the best Keaton bio if you had to read just one, but "Tempest in a Flat Hat" is a welcome tribute to a man who deserves to be remembered with new material ever so often.

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