Mr. Playboy

[Literature, Biography, Reading, and some bunnies]

I just finished reading Mr. Playboy, the biography of Hugh Hefner. I can't quite explain my recent interest in Hefner and the Playboy enterprise. Regular readers know I really like the Girls Next Door but this read did remind me of a few things.

First, biographies are not my favorite form of literature. I enjoy them much more when they are of still living or only recently demised central characters. Otherwise, they begin to quickly become fiction based on the prejudices of the biographer. This one is already partly that way because the writer states right up front that although Hefner fully participated, the conclusions were the authors and the subject did not agree with all of the interpretations made.

I guess that is the nature of a biography, we surely don't want the subject to provide the social or political context of their own life. But in this case, I really wanted to know when Hefer disagree with the grand social contexting the author provides.

Like so many others, I have not seen a Playboy is decades. I found the analysis of how Playboy moved in and out of the cultural mainstream to be reasonable. I had forgotten the Reagan administrations attacks on pornography (The Meese Report) and I only peripherally remembered the other high and low points of Hefner's life, which mirrored almost exactly the corporate life of Playboy Enterprises.

My primary critique of the book is simply that it is an academic biography. Steven Watt, the author, is a history professor who has written to previous biographies on Henry Ford and Walt Disney. The style is not dry but equally not engaging. I should be tempted to read the Disney work but the thought of plying my way through another 500 pages of Mr. Watt's speculation is numbing. 

There is another, more ambitious Hefner book out there, I would give you the alluring details, but I think I had better pitch it to Mr. Playboy first lest someone steal my notion.