April 02, 1984 12:00 PM

by A.E. Hotchner

Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway, among other books, has given this autobiography the subtitle: “The Greats, Near-Greats and Ingrates I Have Known.” Hotchner grew up in St. Louis, got a law degree and served in the Army in World War II. After an affair with an opera singer in Paris, he worked as an editor on Cosmopolitan—years before that magazine was Gurley-ized. Since becoming a free-lance writer in 1950, he seems to have spent his life collecting celebrities primarily for the purpose of selling stories about them. This book includes faded chitchat—of a not particularly elevated sort—about Clark Gable, Dorothy Parker, Ingrid Bergman, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Gary Cooper, Burt Reynolds, Marlene Dietrich and others. Hotchner is shameless in his glorification of Hemingway and their relationship: “What I soon discovered was that my association with Ernest had by now given me an intuitive insight into his way of thinking, and a feel for the pulse of his beliefs; an insight into the symmetry of his imagination and into the compassionate way he dealt with cruelty, death and hate.” Two of Hotchner’s most successful books were about actresses (Doris Day and Sophia Loren), and the title of his chapter on them in Choice People is “Doris Day Is a Fatherless Child, and So Is Sophia.” All this gossip is tainted with the smell of exploitation, and Hotchner’s conclusion is downright embarrassing: “The force of these people whose lives have touched mine is solidly inside me, their voices, laughter and wisdom, a treasure peculiarly mine.” It’s also a treasure that the author seems to be cashing in on most crudely. (Morrow, $16.95)

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