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Streisand has talent to burn, but she also had something rare and lucky: A devoted coterie of man, many of the them gay, who helped her mastermind every aspect of her career. At a certain point, Barbra didn't need any such help any longer. She was able to flex her creative muscle and summon reserves of confidence and strength that allowed her to take creative control of projects that needed leadership and vision.

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Mann seems to admire this about Streisand, noting that Barbra, even in her early career, "rarely aimed to please anyone other than herself," and goes on to add that for her, "questioning directives was standard operating procedure. Indeed, Mann cheerfully lobs critical plaudits and jibes alike into his narrative; at times it can be tough to tell the difference, as when Mann quotes a review by Rich DuBrow, writing about a televised rendition Streisand delivered of the standard "Cry Me A River. Barbra the historical figure and Barbra the nuanced character are one and the same, and Mann makes a good case for his interpretation of the star as a driven, sometimes unexpectedly shy, young woman who burns to be the very best.

There turns out to be a real genius to Mann's decision to focus on Streisand's early years.

Looking at "Funny Girl" today on DVD it's easy to assume that the role of Fanny Brice was tailor written for Streisand, who, like Brice, did not fit the standard mold for beauty but made up for it with chutzpah and sheer force of personality. It's a surprise, then, to discover how much of the book that is to say, those formative first five years was taken up by "Funny Girl" -- first, trying to secure the role and then, even when she had won the part, enduring the creative and practical difficulties the show encountered.

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Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand

Mann also reminds us that not everyone Brice's daughter especially was an early proponent of Barbra for the role. Streisand's multi-media artistic achievements have flowered fully, and she's become a global name. There's drama right at the root of her career, though, and Mann meticulously, compellingly sets it all out for us. Think you know Barbra?


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You'll know her much better, and probably love her better too, upon having read this book. Publication Date: October 9, Pages: Format: Hardcover First Edition. Barbra came skipping barefoot through the sand of Oak Street Beach, the morning sun reflecting off the majestic skyscrapers of downtown Chicago. View all New York Times newsletters. Success had apparently left her more neurotic, mistrustful and hypersensitive to criticism than ever. Mann takes pains to explain why. Her onstage spontaneity is long gone, replaced by a wary carefulness.

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Her fans know all about that. Fifty years after enduring so much rejection on her way to the top, Streisand is still making them pay.

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