And a two-fer!
Popsugar’s list this year seemed to be more focused on more popular reading than the classics: A book written by a celebrity and one written by a comedian, neither of which I would read otherwise. I seem to be more into reading about new cultures and parts of the world than popular reading.
I really struggle to care about celebrities and I did not want to read memoirs about the privileged. I really had to root through Goodreads to find a book that I might possibly care anything about. My father and sister love old school Hollywood and I have had some exposure to that, so I listened to
Dropped Names, Frank Langella
The pinnacle highs and the rock bottom lows of the Hollywood existence. It is about individual celebrities but there is the same trajectory for all of them: amazing talent and then a devastating drop into loneliness and obscurity. People being mocked by others in the industry that they themselves used to rule. These huge and glamorous lives share everyone’s loneliness and basic humanity underneath it all. I have not coveted the life of a celebrity since I left elementary school and I am good with my obscurity. Awesome with my common life, in fact.
I really had to push to get through this. I put the Audible book on a faster speed. This would be great for someone who really likes the background stories of the famous, and not become depressed or bogged down by the details. Langella is honest and a good writer. Just because this was really not my cup of tea does not mean that it was not well done.
A book written by a comedian was a somewhat easier sell. I can’t tell you that I don’t have Yes,Please and Bossypants in my kindle files, but they come more highly recommended from my friends than most other celebrity works. But I listened to the one that also won and Audie Award, which was a criteria from the BookRiot list so I killed two birds with one stone. My two-fer:
Still Foolin’ Em, Billy Crystal
I did infinitely better with this one, despite the fact that I am pretty neutral about Billy. I liked this more because to me it was so much more heartfelt and human. Billy is spending his life pursuing his creativity, of course, but he is a family man at heart. He has loved the same woman since he was 18 years old and he is closing in on 70. No stormy and meaningless affairs but a wife and two girls who he was there for and is now there for at least four grandchildren. He is open about his wounds from his grief over those he loved. He loves baseball and does not take for granted that he has gotten to know and live some childhood dreams that he had with baseball. He is humble and clear that he has taken advantage of rare opportunities. He writes about the panic he experienced with family in Manhattan on the day of September 11. He writes about what giving away treasured daughters in marriage is like. He is open and matter of fact about the discrimination that he has faced as a Jew, but also makes fun of Judaism. I mean, it is interesting to hear about the joy of getting to be on Johnny Carson, but I can relate to the family and the grief and the poking fun at one’s own traditions much more.
This probably won the Audie because of course he performs it himself, and starts every section with a comedy routine that discusses the era of life from which he will spin his next few chapters of life story. He is funny, poignant, and performing, and then he is just real.
The heartening aspect of this book kept me much more engaged and I should probably watch When Harry Met Sally again, now that I know the story about how it came to be. I watched it once when I was fifteen and completely disillusioned about love, which really can happen at fifteen. I think it’s actually more likely at fifteen because I would like to think I understand a smidge more about human relationships now than I did then. I hope I can enjoy it more this time.
So, I like the hopeful human stories more than the glamour and the height of genius, talent and creativity. I guess I can get through it when a celebrity has human and loving stories, not just the fame.
Am I alone in this?
Comments/shares/likes are always welcome!