The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup
This is a collection of my favorite profile pieces, most of which were first published in the New Yorker, with a few from Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside. The subjects range from the well-known (Bill Blass) to the unknown (a ten-year-old kid) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group The Shaggs). Also included are a dozen Talk of the Town pieces. One of the pieces in the book, “The Maui Surfer Girls”, was the basis of the movie Blue Crush.
About the book
“The bestselling author of The Orchid Thief is back with this delightfully entertaining collection of her best and brightest profiles. Acclaimed New Yorker writer Susan Orlean brings her wry sensibility, exuberant voice, and peculiar curiosities to a fascinating range of subjects-from the well known (Bill Blass) to the unknown (a typical ten-year-old boy) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group the Shaggs).
“Passionate people. Famous people. Short people. And one championship show dog named Biff, who from a certain angle looks a lot like Bill Clinton.
“Orlean transports us into the lives of some rather eccentric individuals, like the man who has spent thirty years selling nothing but ceiling fans; or Bob Silverstein, maker of the Big Chair — the crème de la crème of oversized chairs used for novelty photographs at carnivals. Others are living highly unusual lives, like Cristina Sanchez, the eponymous bullfighter, the first woman to become a matador in Spain, or the African king who drives a taxi in New York City and keeps his throne in his living room. Whether describing the sun-drenched existence of a Maui surfer girl or the devoted life of the Jackson Southernaires — a traveling gospel group — Orlean writes with such insight and candor that readers will feel as if they’ve met each and every one of these unconventional folks.
“Susan Orlean brings her wry sensibility, exuberant voice, and peculiar curiosities to a fascinating range of subcultures — sports and music and hairdressing and real estate, among others. The result is a joyful, luminous tour of the human condition via an eclectic array of people, as seen through the eyes of one of America’s most entertaining and original literary journalists.”
The Washington Post Book World
“Orlean’s snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose…is fast becoming one of our national treasures.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Susan Orlean is a master of the quick sketch….She writes arresting, short pieces, serendipitous material that readers stumble across by chance, then read on, transfixed by the casual grace and beauty of these miniatures.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Through the power of energetic reporting and sharp writing, the national character is precisely what Orlean captures. She is a kind of latter-day Tocqueville.”
“Reading Bullfighter will leave you convinced that the world is much wider and stranger than you had thought and that the most ordinary-seeming people are often the most remarkable.”
“One of the New Yorker’s most distinctive stylists, Orlean has a knack for capturing “something extraordinary in [the] ordinariness” of her subjects.”