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There is always a problem which biographies find difficult to overcome. The fundamental problem is that the focus of these books has contributed nothing to the writing and often has exerted pressure to keep their privacy. That does not mean that they are not worth reading or pointless enterprises, but they are fundamentally flawed.
Streisand (1996. Paperback 2016. 449 pages) is a biography of Barbara Streisand written by Anne Edwards, who has written many other biographies. Edwards provides two ‘author’s notes’ one for the 1996 version of the book and a longer one for the updated version.
What can you say about Streisand? She has a natural singing voice which many would sell their souls for; she is a good comedic and romantic actress who has tried to break out of both those preconceptions of her with only some passing success. She directed Yentl (1983); the film did well and got some good reviews, being primarily a drama, and not something which Streisand had often undertaken as a role. The Prince of Tides (1991) saw her taking on, once more, the roles of leading actress and director as she did on The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).
Taking on both those roles in major films did not make her many friends. The biography swings wildly between adulation for Streisand and an expose on how difficult she can be to work with, accusing her of being somewhat of a control freak. Reading between the lines there is a lot of truth to the idea that she was portrayed this way because of her sex, had she been a man they would have called it artistic integrity. Edwards is able to put such behaviour in context, relating it back to an emotionally limited childhood, which left her with a drive to always succeed and be noticed.
Edwards's approach to her subject does make for an uneven read, that said, it’s backed up by hundreds of interviews extensive notes and a full listing of Streisand’s work. There are only fifteen pages of black and white pictures, presumably as Streisand would have sued if Edwards had not used only pictures in the public domain.
Edwards must have some personal like of Streisand, not just because of the occasional adulation, but also the relative low exposure given to her number of tempestuous relationships.
For all its flaws this is still the best Streisand biography and as the lady is not inclined to speak about personal matters it is likely to be so for a very long time.