Joan Rivers was known all over the world - from the Palace Theater to Buckingham Palace, from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the footlights of Broadway, from the days of talkies to hosting talk shows. But there was only one person who knew Joan intimately, one person who the authorities would call when she got a little out of hand. Her daughter and best friend, Melissa.
Joan and Melissa Rivers had one of the most celebrated mother-daughter relationships of all time. If you think Joan said some outrageous things to her audiences as a comedian, you won't believe what she said and did in private. Her love for her daughter knew no bounds - or boundaries, apparently. ("Melissa, I acknowledge that you have boundaries. I just choose to not respect them.") In The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation, Melissa shares stories (like when she was nine months old and her parents delivered her to Johnny Carson as a birthday gift), bon mots ("Missy, is there anything better than seeing a really good-looking couple pushing a baby that looks like a Sasquatch who got caught in a house fire?"), and life lessons from growing up in the Rosenberg-Rivers household ("I can do tips and discounts and figure out the number of gay men in an audience to make it a good show. That's all the math you'll ever need."). These were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to life in the family that Melissa describes as more Addams than Cleaver. And at the center of it all was a tiny blond force of nature.
In The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, Melissa Rivers relates funny, poignant and irreverent observations, thoughts, and tales about the woman who raised her and is the reason she considers valium one of the four basic food groups.
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Love Joan and Melissa but the book misses the mark
Joan's Ivy Day address was fantastic and still timely. Use your manners, take your punches and learn from adversity. Similarly, I enjoyed the stories that involved people Joan didn't particularly like or people who disrespected her. There were things to be learned from those situations. Unfortunately, the revealing or truly interesting stories were few and far between.
The book needed one or two more rewrites to feel professional and smooth. Linking phrases were repeated again and again. The material itself was thin and needed considerable fleshing out. The ghost writer and editor really did not do their job well.
I read / listen to a lot of biographical books. This one is weaker than many but far from the worse. I still got a sense of Joan but I was disappointed by the lack of depth. I felt the book had the opportunity to be so much more. It's a good first or second draft but needs more polish to be great.