Okay, so I am putting this in my “reference” section because I have read this book all wrong. My fault! We procrastinated a while to buy it, and thenOkay, so I am putting this in my “reference” section because I have read this book all wrong. My fault! We procrastinated a while to buy it, and then I procrastinated a while to read it. Then I did read it! But since it’s written chronologically through pregnancy and birth, I figured, “Better just read the parts still ahead of me, right? What if I need to know about these things tomorrow??” because that is how you start to think. So that is what I have done.
(Presently relevant chapter: “I’m Going to Be Pregnant Forever, Right?”)
You might be able to tell from this story that I’ve been going through 8/9ths of a pregnancy so far without actually reading any pregnancy books. Why? Who knows. Mainly I didn’t want to repeatedly read different versions of the same information, with different amounts of judginess and dullness and anxiety. And whose advice to believe, anyway? When I needed to make a decision I read a little about it on a medical website, and otherwise have mostly just been preoccupied with months of dread because I have no idea how to name a child. (Haven’t gotten any of those books, either.)
But if you’re going to read one, literally one, I like this pick. The author is doing the thing I didn’t do when I Googled in order to make a decision: decipher scientific evidence in order to understand it the way a person wants to when it is actually about them. This is a skill that enables you to not become frustrated and throw all the advice out the window as I do, since most articles about science are published with undisclosed bias. Because she researched the book during her own first pregnancy, she clarifies her own bias and reactions and thought processes as she unpacks the important things she learned. It’s a great and readable approach to the information you might otherwise feel you’re reading over and over.
We also happen to fall in line on some of our big preferences, even though she found that for some things she landed in the minority, and that seemed reassuring to me. For instance we both had/have decided to completely panic about labor induction and feel willing to do just about any weird thing to avoid it. And the bigger alliance is starting out with the intention to go without epidural (and its pros and cons), despite her pointing out just how common it is for your doctor to suggest you get one anyway.
It is one interesting thing about my reading — since the author is writing through her personal experience of these issues, the circumstantial details make up a book about American birth. My edition has been re-edited for UK readers (“mums,” “labour,” and £, plus what appears to be an extra focus on UK studies) which is fine, but turns out funny when you read about procedure entirely foreign to the mums giving birth here. This was kind of fascinating for me, an American who’s lived in the UK only a few months longer than I’ve been pregnant, as I certainly don’t know any other way of handling things than the way they’ve handled things for me so far here. But some situations, like the obstetrician who’s happy to pressure you into epidurals, hook you to every monitor, ban food, and ignore you for half a day only to show up to take charge of the second phase, are simply not gonna happen here. I don’t know what my complaints about my experience are going to be, but I like that they won’t be those.
Essentially, I enjoyed what I got from the book although many sections are briefer than I’d like. This, however, is really just the greedy thing that happens to me when I read a good advice book: I want the author to just sit on my sofa and answer all of my questions, for me.
And I might even read the rest of it someday....more
Well, I didn't have as much fun reading this as I thought I would. And it's all right. It wasn't for me right now but it's nice it's here.
The author lWell, I didn't have as much fun reading this as I thought I would. And it's all right. It wasn't for me right now but it's nice it's here.
The author lived a life that basically led me to read the whole book imagining her as Phryne Fisher? In probably less insane clothes. But all of her stories have that same sort of shine in which she is so outside of her time, so good at everything she tries, so untouched by cultural consequences, so fearless and well-liked, it grates after a while. Her stories are true (at least, I imagine, they all are true enough) and truly heroic, and it's great -- here we are reading about British East Africa just before it was known as Kenya, with this girl who grows up getting mauled by lions and making pals with the Nandi tribe and training racehorses and flying planes. It's not unimpressive. I feel so glib, being like "I didn't really enjoy these stories of fabulous experiences and heroic attitudes," but I didn't, today.
Actually, I genuinely think there's good appeal here for younger readers, maybe around the 10-14 range in particular. A lot of the chapters are simplified adventure, which didn't especially excite me -- I outright skimmed over the hunting expeditions, and I really don't do that -- but the author's narrative enthusiasm could definitely pull in younger readers, even if it isn't aimed at them. (However, a few wise words about imperialism would be necessary, in my opinion.)
It also doesn't hurt that she makes a fantastic figure of a female role model without that being the main focus of the book. I liked that -- it's not writing that's about a woman having accomplished these things, it's writing about these accomplishments, and she is a woman. It's glossed over enough, in fact, that I couldn't help but wonder about the underside of her experience. In this book, she has all these admiring, respectful male mentors and colleagues in these masculine professions she excels in. Was it really that easy? She was very privileged, so, perhaps? But I'm thinking it's more likely that when writing in the 1940's she found it easier to highlight the thrill and excitement and fun and glory of it all, and never mind the bollocks.
There is some unfortunate portrayal of her relationship to African people, growing up when and where she did. This isn't particularly surprising but it still isn't great to read, though often it's so gently done that perhaps not all readers will feel it's cruel. But she grew up and became this fabulous, successful woman within the environment of imperial domination. There are many overt comments on the lesser intelligence of the tribal Africans: "I couldn't help wondering what Africa would have been like if such physique as these Kavirondo had were coupled with equal intelligence -- or perhaps I should say with cunning equal to that of their white brethren." Er, no. But mostly this bias is written into the background of her day to day life -- one surrounded by kind, happy natives who are thrilled to include this white girl in their hunting rituals and protect her when she is a child, and once she is older, be employed by her. When she is raising horses, she speaks of the limitations of her dozen-odd "syces," how good and loyal they are but that the most expert tasks "are for me." Her best friend, a Nandi boy who is her childhood playmate, grows up to clean her plane and serve her tea and dispense tribal wisdom.
And once she leaves it behind, flies to England with her white male friends, they drink "a toast to Africa because we knew Africa was gone." Oh yeah? You just closed that book yourself, did you?
Anyway, this privilege problem isn't a dealbreaker, nor is it a shock to hear in the author's voice within its historical context. With perspective, I could have enjoyed the book in spite of it, but in fact I found the book a little too boring. It's odd, because the author's writing style is often noted as the finest thing about the book (and there is the famous Hemingway endorsement), but despite its occasional beauty, at times I found it stilted and barely coherent. Just, really, not for me. But I'm going to keep it around in case it's good for somebody else, someday....more
So, about a month ago, I moved to England from the U.S., to London. (Recently enough that it still feels a little bit preposterous to say.) One of theSo, about a month ago, I moved to England from the U.S., to London. (Recently enough that it still feels a little bit preposterous to say.) One of the things we had to do, in packing our suitcases, was select which books we'd carry with us for the next several weeks and which would travel the long way inside a shipping container. If my count is correct, we brought 16 books with us, and this was one of my picks.
I like Bill Bryson and I figured this would be fun to read as a new resident of England, as a sort of joking but genuine guide to people I'd like to get to know, as well as to some places I'm eager to visit. As soon as I started reading, though, I found that I wished I had done it another way: I got the sense that I didn't much agree with him at all, and wish I had read this instead after accumulating some years of my own, when I'll be able to articulate why.
This book is 20 years old (indeed, it's been so long, he is about to publish a sequel) and in many ways that makes it a really interesting historical perspective on modern England. Bryson settled in the U.K. in 1977, two years before Thatcher came to office, and he decided to leave (and wrote this book) in 1994, four years after she was ousted. The outlook from where he sat, in the mid-90's, was bad.
So the book, then, is positively drenched in this pessimism, the hope lost that anything kind or fair or reasonable will ever be restored to the country, because the government is stone broke with no end in sight. In quite a lot of the places he visits, Bryson basically observes that everything is stupid now, and surely only going to get worse, before it ultimately disappears altogether. It's extremely sad. I'm curious whether the sequel will be interested in addressing the discrepancies between these expectations and the realities of British life in these past 20 years (a majority of which he's spent as a resident again). The country Bryson moved away from in 1995 isn't one I'd have been eager to try living in. But in 2015, on balance, I feel optimism.
It isn't Bryson's dated facts that prevented me from enjoying the book, though. There are other things about its 20 years' age that really no longer flatter him. The negative, cranky character he casts of himself is incredibly unpleasant. He writes as an observer of absurdities, but really he is doing almost nothing but complaining about people and places and things until I could hardly stand it. I nearly tried to keep count of the rants that began "Now here is something I've never understood," or "I have simply never seen the appeal of," etc. I guess that these are funny to some readers, because they're sure written as if they're a hoot. He also both repeats and contradicts himself a lot, and I started to think he didn't really have principles about anything, but just liked to hear himself opine.
But often, there's something so much darker and weird about it: he'll say the nice hotel receptionist has a brain the size of a bean, he'll call someone's wife stupid for no reason, and he'll spend a full page talking about the eating habits of overweight people as if they are cartoon zoo animals. (If you think I might be overreacting, read that, I mean it. Make sure you make it to "their chins glistening with chocolate." It's a disgusting way to describe people, satire or no.) And for goodness sake, for someone spending a solid 7 weeks as a full-time tourist in order to write this book, he sure has some kinda disdain for tourists, doing the exact same things he's doing -- it's just that they're being mindless buffoons about it, of course, and he's gonna get paid.
I couldn't get past this mean-spirited attitude, however much self-satire was sometimes involved, and it impacted my enjoyment of the entire book. There's a dated quality to Bryson the narrator that just doesn't gel with a contemporary tone. I kept thinking about the "typical 90's dad" brand of humor, the Dave Barry and hapless sitcom sorts: the way he talks about his wife here as if all she cares about is shopping and the car, but calls her lovely all the way through so it's all fun. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I'm deciding that I only really dislike "1995" Bill Bryson, in particular. However, this is also the first of Bryson's travel books I've read, and humor and travel are genres that rely wholly on the author's personality. I'm a little warier than I was before.
I'm not sorry I read this, and it did make me laugh, and I did make a nice list of places I hadn't heard of before that I'd like to visit myself: Virginia Waters, Corfe Castle, Snowshill Manor, Welbeck Abbey, Morecambe, Near Sawrey, Durham. Bryson and I share a love for seeing a nice old house. And I think, soon, we'll probably share a love for this funny old country....more
This is a family memoir, and links several story pieces together more cohesively than almost any novel I've reThis book is so wonderful. I loved this!
This is a family memoir, and links several story pieces together more cohesively than almost any novel I've read in ages. It's beautifully done. Partly it is about the author's growing up in Haiti at her uncle's house, before moving to the U.S. at twelve to be with her parents (c. 1980). And partly it is a chronicle of the year that her father and uncle died, and in which she gave birth to her first child (c. 2004). Each of these pieces is a worthwhile story in itself, but there is a darker pull that drew her to write about it all together, which is explained outright in the book's description: the circumstances of her uncle's death in the custody of U.S. Homeland Security.
It's impossible to discuss the book without eventually addressing what happened to Joseph Dantica. But first I feel the need to point out that the content of this book is just about 10% injustice, 5% history lesson, and 85% love, love, love. Edwidge Danticat loves her family so much, and she tells us so many things about the comfort and fun and happiness of belonging to them, it makes us care a lot and understand a lot about them personally. After reading this book, I love her family, and I'm, you know, a stranger to them.
The structural outline of this book is crazy and fun. She jumps back and forth through loops in the timeline every which way, and sometimes branches off into folktales or someone else's memory from decades back. It's a total ramble that she's totally in control of. Her childhood recollections are vivid, even when the circumstances are stark. Haiti at that time was, of course, a poor and often dangerous country, but Edwidge seems to have missed the "worst" of the violence and poverty that would affect her neighbors. Her uncle remembered the U.S. occupation of his childhood, and in his final days he was driven away by rebels from his neighborhood. But in between he and his wife ran a church and school, and helped to raise several young people (only one of them their own child) in what I keep wanting to say appeared to be a happy childhood, although there are plenty of tough stories here. But it isn't evoked in a way that is bleak. It's life. The author seemed to enjoy and be awed by her family as a little girl, with a warm care that the reader begins to share.
However, there is an edge, an imbalance that it seems she can barely glance at. Though waiting comfortably, the author and her brother still waited for eight years — until she was twelve — to be able to join her parents after they moved to New York City. That's a long time. That's a whole childhood. Her parents had two more children in those years, and managed only one visit back home (their immigration story is an interesting time capsule) before Edwidge and her brother were finally allowed to go. And then, snap, they were gone. Exhilarating; wrenching.
For the record: this kind of thing blows my mind, and I would dearly love to read a whole book just about that, if the author would write one. (FWIW it appears she came nearest to it in Breath, Eyes, Memory and in a lesser-known YA novel, both of which I plan to read.) Edwidge's own transition to post-immigration life is not covered in depth in this book, which made me sad because I have a lot of feelings, and it's just something I care to hear about. Our New York City contains so many millions of immigrant tales, and not of the "Ellis Island" kind but the "people who got here yesterday" kind. I think everybody who lives here should care about them, and I find it really important, but I acknowledge it was not essential to the rest of this book right here, only me.
Instead, the timeline mostly advances to her adulthood in 2004, when she learns (on the same day, no less) that her father is dying of a pulmonary disease, and also that she's pregnant. And then, when her uncle comes to visit… In the beginning of the book, she says, "This is an attempt at cohesiveness, and at re-creating a few wondrous and terrible months when their lives and mine intersected in startling ways, forcing me to look forward and back at the same time." I loved this introduction, and I feel I understand her all the more for it and her own meaning for the book.
There are all kinds of ways to dwell on how horrible the way that her uncle Joseph died was. I don't really want to lay them all out in a review here, because it's sad, and for most the facts will speak for themselves. The main reason I won't go into it, though, is that the author herself refrains. She shows the restraint of an artist in cataloging the injustices he experienced after being detained by immigration at the airport in Miami, and she leaves many of the more emotional messages inferred, unsaid. While you could write a whole book about those few days, she doesn't. Because of how well she has permitted us to know these people in the book that she did choose to write, we are able to understand them deeply as this very fucked-up thing goes on, and worry for their fears and feelings ourselves.
Actually, I partly take back something I said in my last review — judging by this book, maybe it is possible to write a natural-sounding narrative based on the account of a formal government report. This author, of course, had benefit of interviewing personal contacts (her cousin and their lawyer) who were present during portions of the events, but overall the story sounds measured and real, including the parts that were clearly primarily based on details gleaned from the Freedom of Information Act. It's well done and hard to do.
I believe this is the first book by Edwidge Danticat that I've read, though I've certainly read something before, because I've known her name since she showed up in my curriculum in a memoir class my first semester of college. That was several years before the events of this one, so I do not know what we read. A short essay, I think? About her hair, maybe, and perhaps one of her brothers? But I clearly don't remember. I'm eager to know her better, and I love so much that she lets us....more
Jo Ann Beard was one of my favorite discoveries of 2013 (though I entirely owe the "discovering" to Sara), so I of course had to snatch up the first oJo Ann Beard was one of my favorite discoveries of 2013 (though I entirely owe the "discovering" to Sara), so I of course had to snatch up the first of her two published books, as well. It is eating me up that there are only two!
This one is straightforward memoir, in short essay pieces. Her form really is creative nonfiction, memory-plumbing and storytelling. Although she published her more recent book In Zanesville as a novel, a large portion of that material is not-at-all veiled borrowings from her self. Which is fine. I think that's interesting. The writing's so good, call it whatever you want. Let it spring from wherever you get it from.
Anyway, what I mean is that it didn't surprise me to encounter the atmosphere of her life (especially her childhood) in this book; it felt familiar and I was glad to be closer to it with this writing, even though so much of the storytelling is so very uncomfortable. I definitely have a threshold for uncomfortable, and a few of these toed that line (mostly her bleak dating years) when there wasn't enough counterweight of something else, irony or affection.
But she is one of those writers with one hell of a gift for writing childhood, nailing the really mean and really funny details. She remembers (or at least extrapolates) enough to bring us back there to what children do and don't get about what goes on, and meanwhile keeps her adult eye always on her parents. Being able to contextualize your parents will always be one of the most fascinating things about adulthood to me. I think one's parents are a mystery you will never truly crack even though you have every clue. I collect so many clues. Does everyone feel that way, or is it just me? When a really good writer writes about their parents, I believe everyone does.
About half of the stories here are about being young (sometimes very, very young); feelings about big sisters, cousins, toys. The other half are about her adulthood, particularly her marriage and divorce, the story of which is sprinkled all throughout.
By the end, I was invested enough that I wished there was something more of a through-narrative to tell me all the missing details of her personal history. But that's impossible, in a collection of short pieces, and I'm a nosy person who likes details even if the teller doesn't want to show them to me. So that's not the author's fault. I never really consider it a criticism when I love something in a book so much that I just want a lot more than it has to give me.
About some particular pieces:
"The Fourth State of Matter" is such a good piece it would be worth buying a book for by itself, but as good luck has it you can already read that one for free. (I already wrote about it a couple of months ago.)
"The Family Hour" was the other jaw-drop standout for me, a stunner from her childhood that reads very close to the novelized family elements from In Zanesville, with the added horror-twinge of it being definitely from real memories. The sewer grate, the beer bottle, the back door. This story was amazing.
"Out There" was a brilliant and brief one about powering through a terrifying experience on a long trip. It reminded me of a segment out of Wild. The facts of it made a good story all on its own, but it's her way of showing the background that gives it weight. Us knowing where her head was reminds us that we never really know where anyone else's head is while they do anything. Which is cool, but isolating, and also sometimes people are terrifying.
The title piece is really long, bringing up the last fifty pages. It's about her friendship with her best friend, weaving stories from middle school up to their current relationship. Something about the way that their adult friendship is written made me laugh so, so hard a bunch of times. It's like the way she writes the blunt blindness of kids, only they're grownups so it's even funnier and sadder at the same time. I loved it. Also, for some reason lately there's nothing I like better than stories about sneaking around at night (I don't know) and this has a great one.
And definitely can't let this go without mentioning my other favorite character Hal, which was Jo's favorite doll when she was three, who figures significantly into a short Preface to the book as well as the longer story "Bulldozing the Baby." (Jo Ann Beard, I love you, but your titles.)
So what now? I don't know. These days, the author appears to have (what is hopefully) a nice teaching job at Sarah Lawrence, but her faculty page isn't up to date with publications, and she has no proper website. So she's just a person! What. That's fine. I would just be excited if there were more to go around. I'm so into this writer, you guys, and I can't quite handle the fact that she hasn't had a wide and prolific publishing career.
So I had Google do some homework and did my best to come up with a little Internet Bibliography for Jo Ann Beard.
Firstly, there are some pieces out there that are from this book:
* "Maybe It Happened." Memoir. (O Magazine, 2008.) You can read this for free! But it's very slight, almost like a teaser for another story. * "All the Many Beasts." Reporting. (Byliner, 1998.) Paywalled, with a free trial. Also with a little use of caching… * "Undertaker, Please Drive Slow." Reporting. (Tin House, 2002.) Only available by hard copy back issue. Looks unbearably depressing, anyway. * "Werner." Reporting. (Tin House, 2006.) Only available by hard copy back issue. I really want to read this one! It's also anthologized in The Best American Essays 2007, in case for some reason one ever runs into a copy of that....more
So… George Eliot is my person. I love her. She gets me. Her books are really good. The way most Goodreads people seem to feel about Virginia Woolf, isSo… George Eliot is my person. I love her. She gets me. Her books are really good. The way most Goodreads people seem to feel about Virginia Woolf, is how I feel about George Eliot. I like her so much that I even like the things that, when you read enough tellings of them, are annoying or dumb or snotty or flawed. I like them all. This is going to skew everything I ever read about her and her novels, so there is my disclaimer.
I've looked forward to reading this book for a long time, you guys!
This book goes straight for me: George Eliot is important to Rebecca Mead, too, and she is reflecting on that personal significance by discussing the themes and history of her favorite Eliot novel. This is 100% something I would love to do, too! I have tons to say about what role my favorite Eliot book has had in my life, how connected I feel to the events of Eliot's personal life while she wrote it, and how I foresee its significance maturing as my life moves along. Very likely most of us could do this, with some book or other. Rebecca Mead just comes very close to mine.
(FWIW, "my" book is The Mill on the Floss — my horrible inadequate review — and I think about it all the time. When I see a copy, I play the "open to a random page" game and then stop before I claw my face right off, it's so emotional to me. A little codependent tradition we've got.)
Personally, I like Middlemarch fine, though its general adulation occasionally makes me wonder if it's maybe the only Eliot that those people ever read. I haven't read everything yet either, so what do I know, but I like at least two others better. But hey, that's okay. It teaches me what I like in books. It teaches me what "Literature" likes in books. And most validly of all, Rebecca Mead is here telling me what she likes in books.
Her telling, here, isn't actually supremely specific to Middlemarch. A reader could conclude many of these things with many other books. But you know what? Doesn't matter. For her, this is the book, the one through which she can filter everything in her world. Isn't that awesome? It is awesome. I love that.
However: after finishing, I'm not surprised by the reviewers who think Mead's book is a little bit mislabeled. While it does everything it says it will in the description, it should really be noted how emphasized Eliot's biography is as a subject, and how much space it's given here. Most chapters, rather than being structured around Middlemarch or Mead's personal thoughts, are actually structured around a telling of Eliot's life that is enhanced by those other things. This surprised me, because biography is well-covered ground, and a big responsibility to deliver to new readers. And then in writing a personal book, as Mead is, glossing over the bits of Eliot's life that she's less interested in analyzing is not a very balanced approach. I did a healthy amount of biographical reading for a thesis only last year, so I've still got a decent grasp on the main narrative of Eliot's life. If it were up to me, I would make some different choices than Mead does of what to include and what to say about it, pertaining to parts of her novels. But again, I can't fault her for not writing "my" book, because she's writing hers.
Clearly, Mead definitely knows more than me, and I was reading several things for the first time, or that were told here in a way I finally took note of. She particularly spends a lot of time on Eliot's partner Lewes's sons, including some revealing letters by Thornie Lewes that haven't been published before. They're not completely on-topic, but it's a fun section in a face-palmy way. (RIYL Victorian racism, and comparisons of shooting "bushmen" to hunting "chimps and gorillas." Kids those days!) I also really enjoyed the chapter about Eliot's Oxford friends (Mark Pattison and Emily Strong), by whom it was/is widely conjectured that Middlemarch's Dorothea and Casaubon were inspired. Whether or not this theory is true or makes good sense, Mead writes a really entertaining analysis of their true story and I loved learning about them.
The thing I loved most, though, and the most original thing that Mead does in the book (and unsurprisingly, something I would LOVE to do!), is to go and make pilgrimage to as many of Eliot's landmarks as she can. All of her homes, all of the areas that influenced her writing during the Middlemarch period, Mead hops around and stares them all down. This is the perfect connective tool for this book: it fits a telling of both Eliot's life story as well as Mead's own, and has the built-in perspective of centuries. How do places and things — books, artifacts — reach us over time? Do they lose or gain value? Can they do both?
I love visiting historic sites for this reason (especially old homes), so I was extremely excited to see what Mead would find. Eliot's childhood home is a pub (the house still stands), her young adult home is a graffitied Bangladeshi community center (the house still stands), but the home she shared with Lewes for fifteen years ("The Priory") is a train track. And Mead goes to see it. I would go to see it, too! I might, if I go to London. It's worth it to me, the place. The place has value. When Mead goes to them, she speaks to people there, she looks inside, she asks to see the special rooms. It's worth it to her, too.
She also takes some wonderful research opportunities, like reviewing Eliot's notebooks and Middlemarch's original manuscript at their special library collections. And because this is Mead's book, about her own experience as a lover of this great novel, she gets to tell us how that feels, in addition to what's in them. How does the notebook smell, for heaven's sake? (LIKE A FIREPLACE!) This type of legit research experience, together with the everyday experiences of museum visits and the more personal visits she goes out of her way to do (she visits Lewes's living descendants! SHE HOLDS ELIOT'S PEN!), combine into a very trustworthy and relatable narrative experience.
More of Mead's own memoir would have enhanced this book for me. She mentions her life events a lot, but hangs on to a good amount of her journalism-trained reserve, and so does not go very deep. Probably the only thing I like more than a person talking about their favorite book is a person speaking deeply about their lives, so if there were a little more of both of those in this book I can't imagine how incredibly much more I would love it, too.
Partly, I feel that I myself am seeking a leader, someone who can write to me about life and George Eliot and how to read and connect. I'm so grateful that this book exists in order to take a step and go there....more
I read this when I was in 6th grade. Because I knew that it was important, and I wanted to learn about all the important things, so I read lots, and lI read this when I was in 6th grade. Because I knew that it was important, and I wanted to learn about all the important things, so I read lots, and lots, of grim, completely age-inappropriate books about social oppression! It wasn't bad to do that; I learned a lot. But it was, I will say, odd.
I had to ask my dad what "castration" meant. In case you're wondering if your little avid reader is old enough for this book, consider if that is a conversation you're in the mood to have!
In all honesty? I think I learned about the book in the first place from an episode of "Mr. Belvedere."...more
I definitely liked this. I read it the winter of the Iraq War ramp-up, in 2003. I felt under-informed about the guy's actual background, and this helpI definitely liked this. I read it the winter of the Iraq War ramp-up, in 2003. I felt under-informed about the guy's actual background, and this helped a lot, though I think it's intended more for readers who are already on the same page as the author. Not that anybody's managed to be on-page with Molly Ivins, but, you know....more
I felt very edgy while I read this -- a current-events (of 1997) monologue play performed by the author, about his own travel experience -- but of couI felt very edgy while I read this -- a current-events (of 1997) monologue play performed by the author, about his own travel experience -- but of course can't remember whether it is in fact politically edgy at all. Or if I'm any judge.
Besides, I read the majority of this tucked up on my best friend's waterbed while everyone else in the house was drinking and having fun. Because I was nothing if not super edgy at high school parties....more
From what I remember, this was a really well-balanced book with the right amounts of celebrity anecdotes (e.g. Ethel Merman being insane), crazed showFrom what I remember, this was a really well-balanced book with the right amounts of celebrity anecdotes (e.g. Ethel Merman being insane), crazed show-must-go-on last-minute creative-genius anecdotes (e.g. "Comedy Tonight"), insider narratives on how the shows almost went (e.g. the original "Being Alive"), plus hard-to-come-by details about his generally reserved personal life (spoilers: he is a cranky pants, sometimes with rather young boyfriends). It's also made a useful reference book during the occasional post-theater debate, if you're in the right company to have them. With all the enthusiasm of Finishing the Hatters recently, I'd expect the same audience would love this. (If they don't already have it.)
I definitely did love it years ago when I read it, but I was mainly doing so through the happy-colored lenses of "I wonder if Stephen Sondheim and I would be friends? DUH OF COURSE WE WOULD BE FRIENDS! We're so alike!" (Hindsight: um, no, we would not really be friends; we are not really alike!)
I remember spending a lot of time reading this in the house of my high school's theater, during a stagecraft class where there was never anything to do. I thought I'd get to hang out with theater people, but no cigar. Hung out with Steve instead. (And sometimes Tennessee.)...more
I love the concept behind this, and most of all, I love the Katherine Paterson piece in the beginning, which I've reread several times. It is perfectI love the concept behind this, and most of all, I love the Katherine Paterson piece in the beginning, which I've reread several times. It is perfect that this is a thing.
I think I wasn't as invested in every single piece, overall? But that's okay. Maybe someday I will revisit them all....more