Tag Archives: memoir

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (unabridged audiobook read by the author): Man oh man, I never expected to fall in love with Carrie Fisher. Aside from Star Wars and a cameo appearance in one of the Austin Powers movies, I’m pretty much completely unfamiliar with her work. I’ve never read any of her novels or seen any of her other movies. But you know, this was really fantastic. She’s brutally honest about her upbringing as a product of “Hollywood inbreeding”, her bipolar disorder, her addictions, and her romantic follies. This is a pretty short book, but it goes a mile a minute, jumping from topic to topic without ever feeling too scatterbrained. There are some sad parts and some touching parts, but most of it is just plain old hilarious. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions and had a big old grin on my face for much of the rest of it. Highly recommended.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris: Since I haven’t read Barrel Fever, all but one of the stories in this collection were new to me, and I really enjoyed them all. Some of them were more weird than funny, but there were enough laugh-out-loud moments to make up for the bits that fell short of awesome. I especially enjoyed the Santaland Diaries, about Sedaris’s stint as a Macy’s elf, and Front Row Center, which is basically what would happen if a theater critic started covering elementary school Christmas pageants. Definitely recommended, but not if you’re feeling too sentimental about the holidays. Sentimental is one thing this book definitely is not.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: There are several layers to this book. The outermost layer is a cross-country motorcycle trip Pirsig takes with his son, Chris. I probably enjoyed this part of the book the most, traveling vicariously through states I’ve never visited. Pirsig’s occasional descriptions of the scenery and people is refreshingly frank. The next layer is a series of talks Pirsig conducts in his head while riding the motorcycle. Most of this is a discussion of Quality. Since most of the book is spent describing this concept I won’t go into it here. The innermost layer is the life story of Phaedrus, a man whose past continually haunts Pirsig and serves as a backbone for his concept of Quality. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t feel particularly enlightened. I think I may have gotten more out of this book had I read it when it first came out, or perhaps if I were at all familiar with the existing schools of philosophical thought. Having never read Aristotle or Socrates, I can’t say whether or not Pirsig’s arguments against them have any merit. My favorite parts were when he was less zen and more motorcycle maintenance, especially the course on Gumptionology 101. That made me smile. All in all, this isn’t the sort of book I could read for long stretches at a time, but rather something to dip into now and again. I’m glad to have read it, but I don’t think it’s something I would read again.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Booking Through Thursday

Today’s Booking Through Thursday is fairly straightforward:

Which do you prefer? Biographies written about someone? Or Autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

I don’t read many biographies, auto- or otherwise, though my favorites have been primarily memoirs, such as If Chins Could Kill and Cancer Vixen, and of course pretty much anything David Sedaris or Laurie Notaro put out. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a straight-up biography, come to think of it; the closest was probably Silverstein and Me, which wasn’t really so much a life story as it was memories of a good friend in reasonably chronological order. Books about single people have never really interested me.

So I guess that’s my long way of saying that I prefer autobiography. Which is interesting, since before this meme I would have thought I had no preference either way.

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (unabridged audiobook read by the author): One thing I really appreciate about Sedaris is not only does he share the often unflattering foibles of everyone around him, he never spares himself. Indeed, he often paints himself as the one with the worst intentions and habits. I laughed particularly hard at “In the Waiting Room” and “What I Learned”. The final and longest essay, “The Smoking Section,” goes through his first few months after quitting smoking. It’s made more interesting by the stay in Japan during this time. These essays are sometimes poignant, often funny, and always unexpected. All in all, this is one of Sedaris’s better collections. It doesn’t beat out Me Talk Pretty One Day as my favorite, but it’s probably in second place.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti

Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain by Michael Paterniti: When Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey autopsied Albert Einstein in 1955, he removed the great scientist’s brain, though whether he had the family’s permission to do so remains in doubt. Either way, he kept the brain in his house, in a couple of cookie jars. When Paterniti learned of this, he sought out the elusive pathologist. When Harvey mentions his intentions of giving part of the brain to Einstein’s niece Evelyn in California, Paterniti offers to drive him. Not quite as much of a romp as I’d hoped. I found myself a little nauseated every time he described the brain itself, which was in pieces, floating in formaldehyde. It doesn’t help that Paterniti seems to want to present the brain as a sort of religious relic, but often falls short. The main draw for me was the opportunity for a vicarious cross-country road trip. Unfortunately, Paterniti and Harvey don’t make for very interesting company.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Silverstein and Me by Marv Gold

Silverstein and Me by Marv Gold: The poetry of Shel Silverstein is a big part of my childhood, so it was with trepidation that I began reading this memoir by a lifelong friend. Sometimes I just don’t want to know about people’s dark sides. (And, admittedly, sometimes I do.) But this wasn’t an expose. Rather, it was a pleasant collection of memories of a guy who was undeniably memorable. Like many people, I was most familiar with Silverstein’s children’s books, but this tale focuses more on his beginnings, from childhood through college and the start of his 40-year career with Playboy. I enjoyed the little illustrations (Gold was a fellow artist, after all) and anecdotes. Though I wish Silverstein’s cartoons, poetry, and lyrics could have been reprinted here when they were referenced, all in all I found this to be a sweet tribute to a talented and unusual man.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton: The story most people are familiar with is Wil Wheaton’s appearance in Stand By Me, followed by his portrayal of the oft-maligned Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, after which he completely fell off the radar. In a sense, this is the story of What Happened to Wil Wheaton After Star Trek. But it’s more than that, too. It is an unabashedly honest (and often hilarious) account of one man’s journey from struggling and extremely insecure actor to confident and content writer. Though it probably helps to be at least passingly familiar with the Star Trek universe, you don’t have to be a die-hard fan to appreciate Wheaton’s writing. He learns and shares many lessons about regret, validation, and acceptance. I devoured this book in about a day and enjoyed every minute of it. Wheaton has lots of very good and important things to say about acting, blogging, and celebrity, but there is also plenty of humor to keep things rolling. Definitely recommended.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt: I suspect most people who read this book do so for the same reason I did: they liked Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Instead of Savannah, we are now in Venice. The story opens a few days after the fire that destroyed the Fenice Theater and continues through its first performance after reopening almost ten years later. Most of the book is in some way related to this: a glassblower who makes vases to commemorate the event, the intracharity squabbles of an American group trying to fund restorations, and of course the investigation into the cause of the fire. In the middle are anecdotes about various other Venicians, including a rather long tale about Ezra Pound’s mistress, Olga Ruge. Berendt’s prose style reads very much like a novel, and I found myself very much wanting to see Venice. I also discovered that I don’t particularly want to visit Venice. The characters, while interesting and often eccentric, also struck me as particularly unfriendly and oversensitive. Gossip and bribery rule the day against the backdrop of gorgeous canals and palaces. Still, it’s an interesting book and very different from most travelogues. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for Berendt’s next work.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Naked by David Sedaris

Naked by David Sedaris: As with all of Sedaris’s books, this is a collection of autobiographical essays, mostly humorous. To be honest, this wasn’t one of his better books. A lot of the stories felt simply too long and drawn out, as if they could have been split into two stories about two different things. I should also note that the stories are more sequential, so that things make the most sense when read in the order they are presented in the book. This wasn’t a bad book, to be sure; I laughed in quite a few places. It just isn’t as strong a set of tales as those found in his other books. Recommended for Sedaris fans, but if you’re new to this author, you’d probably be better off trying out something else.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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