Saturday, May 30, 2015

Books Read in 2015: "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead

The book club that I've been participating in chose this as lighter fare for a summer read. Not something I would have known about otherwise (it's a YA novel), but I wound up enjoying it quite a bit. It's a period piece, set in 1978-1979, but not especially twee about it. I can't help but wonder if setting it at that time makes it close enough that kids can relate--it's not a totally different and inconceivable world--but allowed the author to put characters face-to-face in order to talk things out, or at least have them do so over the phone, because there was no other way to do so. In a contemporary novel, she'd simply write out transcriptions of texts, Tweets, and Facebook messages. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Books Read in 2015: "I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-star" by Judy Greer

You may know Judy Greer from such roles as Kitty Sanchez on "Arrested Development", or as the voice of Cheryl Tunt on "Archer". Doubtless you've seen (or heard) her somewhere, even if you can't quite place where, hence the clever and appropriate title of her book.

The book is a nice enough read, a pleasant collections of stories and essays about growing up in Michigan, going to school in Chicago, moving to Los Angeles, and working as an actor while maintaining friendships and a family. As an insight into the world of the working character actor (a term I use with great respect and affection), it's interesting in just how normal Greer comes across. Too many people assume that every actor they see on screen lives in a mansion and makes millions of dollars a year, or they lap up stories of deluded and talentless people who move to Hollywood with vague notions of becoming famous as supreme act of revenge and no means to do so. As Greer mentions at one point in reply to the well-meaning question who gets from those people who recognize her, "Why aren't you getting bigger/better roles?", it's not like there's some checkbox she forgets to mark on an application. It just hasn't happened. Not yet. But she's grateful to get to work at all. (She actually has a chapter about all the mean and insulting things people say to her when they're trying to compliment her. Her suggestion is to just say, "I like your work" and to leave it at that.)

Judy Greer seems like a very nice person. And that might be part of the problem with the book. While it's nice enough, it lacks some bite. This isn't a kiss-off to Hollywood; she's still a working actor, after all, and can't bite the hand that feeds her. So no backstage gossip, no tell-all secrets about the leading men she's seen up close, no debilitating addiction and thus no triumphant story of recovery. But what she does write about is done in a pleasant and engaging manner, and I'd be curious enough to read what she has to say in volume two.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Books Read in 2015: "This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All" by Marilyn Johnson

You don't hear the term "cybrarian" bandied about much anymore. I think they've just gone with "digital librarian".

If you think of this as a collection of related essays rather than a single volume with a single thesis, it's a bit easier to take. Some are good, some seem like squandered opportunities, some are just overwritten, and one seems to be a very optimistic take on the potential of "Second Life" that does not seem to have borne out. But Johnson does have a great deal of affection and respect for libraries and librarians and that shines through. Most of the sins seem to come from eagerness, which shouldn't be discouraged.