Kaufman was just beginning his awkward ascent when Hecht — on a vague assignment from Harper‘s magazine — first met the mercurial comic; over the course of the next year, she found herself serving as both his reluctant confidante and unwilling accomplice. Genius is her wonderfully deadpan account of their time together, much of it mutually frustrating: Kaufman, with his short attention span and love of pranks (including a fake fight in a roadside diner), could be confrontational even when cordial, and Hecht rarely let him off easy, questioning his childish behavior and challenging his exaggerations. Wisely, though, she never tries to analyze him, leaving the book’s titular query for the reader to decide — and making for a revealing document that breaks from the celebrity-profile mold.
Was This Man a Genius?: Talks With Andy Kaufman