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Groucho Marx by Lee Siegel Preview
January 12, 2016
176 P., 176 p., 5 3/4 x 8 1/4

Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence

by Lee Siegel

Born Julius Marx in 1890, the brilliant comic actor who would later be known as Groucho was the most verbal of the famed comedy team, the Marx Brothers, his broad slapstick portrayals elevated by ingenious wordplay and double entendre. In his spirited biography of this beloved American iconoclast, Lee Siegel views the life of Groucho through the lens of his work on stage, screen, and television. The author uncovers the roots of the performer’s outrageous intellectual acuity and hilarious insolence toward convention and authority in Groucho’s early upbringing and Marx family dynamics. The first critical biography of Groucho Marx to approach his work analytically, this fascinating study draws unique connections between Groucho’s comedy and his life, concentrating primarily on the brothers’ classic films as a means of understanding and appreciating Julius the man. Unlike previous uncritical and mostly reverential biographies, Siegel’s “bio-commentary” makes a distinctive contribution to the field of Groucho studies by attempting to tell the story of his life in terms of his work, and vice versa.

Feature Review: 

"A luminous delight... A true page-turner and a lot of fun. [Siegel] applies his own philosophical acuity to the personal and socio-political aspects of Groucho’s life."--Shon Arieh-Lerer, Slate

"Delightfully perverse." -- New York Times Book Review

"Siegel’s book is the latest entry in Yale University Press’s admirable Jewish Lives series. . . . Groucho Marx is trenchant and provocative. I would join any club that has this book in its library.”—Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post

"Spirited and revealing... An astute psychological profile of the man whose biting, nihilistic comedy broke so many barriers." --John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle

"A luminous delight... A true page-turner and a lot of fun. [Siegel] applies his own philosophical acuity to the personal and socio-political aspects of Groucho’s life." --Shon Arieh-Lerer, Slate

“A beautiful, brilliant, and persuasive reading of Marx as crypto-nihilist. A necessary and pulse-quickening work (utterly bereft of jargon or self-seriousness), linking Aristophanes to Kafka to Beckett to Groucho to Woody Allen to Amy Schumer.”—David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

“Lee Siegel’s brilliant analysis of the glorious, scary, beyond-funny humor of Groucho and his brothers made me feel as if I were watching their movies for the first time. In this hugely enjoyable and stimulating book, Siegel shows how Groucho became an impossibility: an immortal comedian.”—Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains and On the Rez

"A captivating glimpse of how Marx turned himself into a legend."-- Publisher's Weekly

"A perceptive, though dark, portrait."-- Kirkus Revews

"A must-read for all Groucho lovers and for all those who want to understand what Siegel states is 'the evolution of Jewish humor itself.'"—Jewish Book Council

"The Marx Brothers' style was a protest of sorts, wrapped up in chaos, but Groucho always stepped in to put a point on the action, jabbing it home with his cigar. It was as if he was justifying the madness, and insisting that it all made more sense than the status quo. . . . It is this man that Siegel reveals, a scornful, restless, self-educated intellectual whose world view ripens over the years more than it ages."—A Classic Movie Blog

Lee Siegel

Lee Siegel
Christina Gillham

Lee Siegel writes about culture and politics for a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, is a recipient of the National Magazine Award and author of five books.

THURSDAY MARCH 10 at 12pm 92nd Street Y For details Click Here

Listen to Lee Siegel talking about Groucho Marx on NPR's All Things Considered--
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