book thoughts: books by comedians

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So far this year I’ve read three books by some very funny people – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt, Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia, and Bossypants by Tina Fey.  All three of these books are worth picking up if you’re a fan of any of these people or just interested in finding out what it is like to work in the comedy business.  Oswalt and Birbiglia focus on the stand-up career path, while Fey discusses her life in improv, Saturday Night Live writer, and 30 Rock creator. 

The one things I”ve noticed about these kinds of books is that there are always these very “jokey” chapters.  I can’t figure out if these chapters are included because the comedian felt they had to write something outright funny or if their publisher requested it of them.  Because these “jokey” chapters are always the least entertaining part of the books.  When Oswalt writes about growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., working at a shitty move theater over the summer with some very eccentric individuals, I found myself laughing at how ridiculous real life can be.  But when the chapter about hobos in thea 1930s started…I was bored very quickly because the whole thing felt forced.  (I actually listened to Oswalt’s book, and even he seemed less enthused about these chapters when reading them)  Tina Fey writes about traveling with her husband for Christmas with his family in rural Ohio and the catastrophe that was their honeymoon.  Hilarious.  Tina Fey writes “responses” to comments left online for her and silly lists about being skinny/fat – meh, you might smile while you read them but the laughs do not flow as freely.

I don’t remember this issue with Mike Birbiglia’s book, but to be fair, the book came from his award-winning Broadway show so he had a bit more time to tweak his words and stories.  This was probably my favorite of the three because it really is just a memoir and Mike’s life is funny.  Sometimes it’s LOL funny, sometimes a bittersweet funny…and sometimes it’s just life and it still works because you know he’s just being honest. 

So, if you’re a comedian and you’re thinking of writing a book – PLEASE, just write your story.  We know you’re funny, the publisher would not have given you a book deal otherwise, so please don’t feel that you must write “funny”.  If you just write the way you always talk – with whatever the attitude is, then your fans will get it.  And if it’s your publisher/editor telling you to make it more “jokey”, stand your ground.  It’s the honest truth of how strange life is that makes readers smile and laugh. 

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland – ***

Bossypants ***1/2

Sleepwalk with Me ****

movie thoughts: Let Me In (2010)

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So, when I first heard they were remaking Let The Right One In – I rolled my eyes.  First, I knew it had only been greenlit because there were vampires involved.  Second, I had seem the Swedish film and while I felt it was well done, I wasn’t sure I liked it.  Of course, I had rented it for a good scare, but it really isn’t a scary movie.  It’s creepy, it’s weird, but scary was not what came to mind.  Then I saw the first trailer for Let Me In and could tell they had copied the scenes from the Swedish film and wondered why you would even bother remaking it. 

But then Let Me In came out and got surprisingly good reviews…and I became curious.  Could this remake be watchable? 

Well, last night I finally popped in the DVD after letting it sit on my desk for a month.  I figured, hey, it’s 11:30, I’ll watch a little bit and then finish it tomorrow after work.

I couldn’t turn it off.

Which was odd because it really was almost the exact same movie as the Swedish film, yet at the same time, there were enough small tweaks, added moments, that sucked me into the movie.  Or maybe it was because I didn’t have any preconceived notions this time, I knew exactly what kind of story I was getting into – a relationship between a young boy, a boy who is bullied in school, whose mother is so absent from his life that she never even appears in the frame with him and we never see her face (though I can’t decide if this was a cool artistic decision or a sort of “I want to be artsy” thing…but I liked it) – and the girl next door…or, at least, the creature that resembles a little girl.

This is a movie I’d love to discuss with someone who had not seen the Swedish film.  I knew what was coming, I knew the whole story, so things that might have been shocking to others were not so much for me.  

It’s hard for me to evaluate this movie!  I will say the film was very well acted, by both of the leads especially.    The editing and the shots, while mimicing the style of the Swedish film, had some interesting moments of their own that somehow made this version…better?  Perhaps.  I felt the story moved a lot smoother, I was able to understand certain connections that I only remember being hinted at in the original.  But maybe that is just the English speaking size of my brain, the American side, being able to process it all faster than it could when I was watching and reading subtitles.

But I couldn’t turn it off.  1:30am rolled around and the credits finally rolled and I really did enjoy it.  I don’t know if I’d watch it again, it ends on a very melancholy moment, but it did have some good moments. 

Just know, it’s not really a scary movie.  It’s got suspense and elements of horror, but in the end, like all good stories, it’s about relationships.  This relationship just happens to be between this lost boy and really lost girl/vampire…thing.  But it is worth seeing, even if you have not seen the original.  In fact, you might enjoy it MORE if you haven’t seen the original because you will get to be surprised as the plot unfolds and won’t have to try to figure out why you liked the American version more.

 

 

book thoughts: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell (2011)

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  What?  A YA book that is not a “sequel” or a “compaion” and doesn’t involve vampire fairy zombies?  I wasn’t sure they would still publish something like this, especially since the writing is so good.

I loved Judy Blundell’s first YA book What I Saw and How I Lied (and I wasn’t alone, it received the 2008 National Book Award for Young Adult Fiction).  Strings Attached is another historical fiction novel with that bit of a mystery noir twist.  It’s 1950 and Kit Corrigan has run off to New York City to try to break into Broadway.  When we join her, she is a chorus girl dancing in a production that is about to open and sure to close within the month.  She is trying to figure out how to survive on what little money she gets, living with another dancer, whose mother is a penny pinching nag.  After rehearsal, there is a bit of a blow-up between the two girls and Kit realized that she can’t stay there any longer.  She sets out on her own and happens to run into Nate Benedict, the father of her ex-boyfriend from back home.  Odd coincidence.  What’s even stranger is that Nate has an apartment all ready to rent…and he gives it to Kit.  Kit, being a combination of naive and desperate, accepts the place, not thinking about the complications that could quickly arise.

Blundell opts to tell the story out of order and the non-linear way the plot unfolds keeps readers wondering what exactly is going on – why did Kit leave home?  Why is Nate so quick to offer her this place?  What happened to her ex-boyfriend? 

You won’t want to put this book down because Blundell carefully hands you each piece of the puzzle, but then holds on to the final bit, that middle piece that brings it all together, until the last page. Her well researched writing brings 1950s Manhattan back to life and the reader gets a great feel for the city and what was going on behind the scenes. 

Fantastic and one of my favorite reads of 2011 so far!