Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Screenwriter brothers David Henry and Joe Henry deliver gossipy, accessible accounts of selected events that influenced Pryor. Experimental, speculative short fictional narrative passages describe key moments in Pryor's life cinematically, with literary flair. By way of context, the authors provide thumbnail depictions of other comedians: Bert Williams and blackface comedy; Lenny Bruce and storytelling as comedy; George Carlin and shifting uses of language in comedy. The authors provide selective recountings of Pryor's childhood in Peoria; interest in Black Panther Party strategies; addiction to drugs; several marriages and violent relationships with women; public breakdowns; and long friendship with Paul Mooney. They also include helpful discussion of Pryor's early acting roles in the films Wild in the Streets, You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat, and Wattstax. Notwithstanding occasional reference to W. E. B Du Bois's theory of double consciousness to describe Pryor's demons, the volume has a popular-press style of narration. It is marred by lack of footnotes or index, and many missed opportunities, as in the frequent recounting of Pryor's easy admissions of enjoying sex with men, but no context for consideration of gay African American comics. Thus, the book is not appropriate for academic use. Summing Up: Optional. General readers only. T. F. DeFrantz Duke University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* With ferocious energy and a malleable face, Richard Pryor on stage made full use of his genius and his demons. Every moment of his life being raised by a grandmother who ran a whorehouse in Peoria, Illinois; exposure to colorful street characters; drug addiction; many failed relationships; indiscriminate sexual liaisons was fodder for his comedy. After honing his talent on the chitlin' circuit, he moved on to Greenwich Village, the site of seismic changes in the American cultural scene, where he saw Lenny Bruce and learned he could use his sharp observations and quick wit to develop biting and hilarious portraits of the gritty side of life. The Henrys detail Pryor's early struggle with double-consciousness: cleaning up his act to get ahead (a la Bill Cosby) while wanting a release from containment. When he found his own voice, Pryor got mixed reactions, both horror at his rawness and liberal use of the n-word and elation at his liberating frankness. Drawing on interviews with Pryor's friends, family, and colleagues as well as his personal writings, the Henrys portray a man of enormous talent, a one-man theater of raw emotions as he torqued through success and a spectacular crash through drugs, violence, forgettable movie roles, and self-immolation. A beautifully written account of the troubled life of a manic genius.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The brothers Henry animate the blazing talent of the late comedian Richard Pryor in this irreverent, profanity-laced biography that follows him from his brothel childhood (his mother was a sex worker, his grandmother a madam) to his furious and ferocious adulthood. (LJ 9/15/13) (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The latest biography of "the world's most brilliant stand-up comedian" is the culmination of a project that took more than a decade (originally intended as a three-act screenplay) by screenwriter Henry and his brother, musician Joe. Born in 1940 in Peoria, IL, Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III was raised by his grandmother, who ran a brothel in which his mother "also turned tricks." Raped at five by a teenage bully (who, decades later, appeared with his son seeking Pryor's autograph), Pryor found respite from his oppressive childhood by acting in local theater. Leaving the first of six wives and his first two (of seven) children, Pryor arrived in New York City in 1963, embarking on a career that spanned clubs, television, and film, finding unparalleled success as a black performer in a racially stratified industry. Universally lauded as a genius, Pryor never overcame his drug addictions, spectacularly exemplified by his 1980 freebasing-induced self-immolation. VERDICT More a compilation of assiduous research than a narrative-with irreverent profanity that echoes Pryor's performances-this book should succeed in introducing a legend to new generations. Readers raised on dystopia will find Pryor's life tragically epic.-Terry Hong, Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.