Keith Staskiewicz
July 13, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Memory of All That

Current Status
In Season
Katharine Weber

We gave it an A-

The Memory of All That is less a family memoir than a family biography. Which is good, because Weber’s kin are more than fascinating enough to stand on their own without the embellishments of personal memory — especially her maternal grandmother, the composer Kay Swift, whose 10-year affair with George Gershwin is the primary melodic theme around which the book is structured. Complicating matters was that for 7 out of those 10 years, Swift was married to another man, James Warburg, a member of a preeminent banking family and an adviser to FDR. There is plenty to unpack in this multidirectional relationship, and Weber does her best to evoke its more tender elements with writing that is both loving and distanced. But these high-society emotional escapades contrast with the book’s other major figure, Weber’s father. An aggressively unfaithful and relentlessly self-promoting movie producer, he yearned desperately for his own legacy, like that of his famous in-laws. The grand irony is that in his search, he neglected the one thing that could ensure his memory lived on: his family. A-

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