Read the year’s most endearing biography

In another time, he would have been a gentleman explorer, the kind who parachuted into cannibal jungles or soldiered through Arctic disasters eating his own shoe leather, all in the service of returning with a splendid anecdote.

So it’s fitting that the first biography of the literary adventurer and Paris Review editor is an oral history, a genre that elevates the humble anecdote to an art form. And George, Being George is filled with one exhilarating, unlikely tale after another, most gleaned from the glittering roster of party guests he hosted (or published, or employed) again and again over the years. Here is George, junior taxidermist, persuading his mother to send him dead animals in the mail. Here is George at an orgy, fully clothed, genially fanning more involved parties. Here is George wrestling the gun away from Sirhan Sirhan. Here is George in conversation.

As a journalist, George Plimpton embarked on manufactured adventures: He went three rounds with Archie Moore, ran the bulls in Pamplona, flew trapeze in a circus, and played Mahler’s Fourth (on a triangle) in Leonard Bernstein’s orchestra. When he failed (which was a lot of the time), he failed spectacularly and entertainingly. But as a writer, editor, and totally game center of gravity, Plimpton triumphed. Blithely detached bystanders, beware — this book will keep you up at night with regrets for all the women unravished, assassins untackled, and jungles untrekked.

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