"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, February 15, 2015

She Walks in 'Bossypants' Like the Night...

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I write this review, American women are spending tens of millions of dollars to see a movie that features a man who, if I have been correctly informed, wants them to wear handcuffs in bed. I am a bitter lonely writer this weekend for non-cinematic reasons. Still, the above development gives me one more reason to throw up my gentlemanly bachelor hands and say, “Wuh?!”

Granted, I did spend this Valentine’s Day weekend focused intently on a woman who turns me on. I finished listening to the audio edition of Tina Fey’s non-fiction book Bossypants. Whether engaged in memoir, reflection on gender dynamics in contemporary entertainment, or conventional comedic monologue, Bossypants succeeds wonderfully.

The same lean, apology-free writing that made Ms. Fey such a great writer for SNL appears in Bossypants. Fey takes readers through all the high points of her career thus far, all the stuff she knows fans can’t help wondering about, and she presents it with crisp insight and tangy irony. Furthermore, this is not a glossed-over autobiography. Bossypants is a serious and thoughtful, self-critical yet simultaneously hilarious, one-woman show of a book. I can only fault Fey for relying a bit too often on a gag where her voice trails off to stress the occurrence of a punch line. This bit plays best during an anecdote about the time she sheepishly gave an acting note to Sylvester Stallone. Then it starts to feel belabored.

As I listened to one of my crushes read her book aloud, I thought how fortunate to live at a time in our nation’s history when she is not only allowed to vote, but also to produce mainstream entertainment that meets her high writing standards. Why should such women be encouraged to simultaneously pursue a full-time career and motherhood? Here is a selfish reason: so I can enjoy the top-notch comedy that results at gigs like the Golden Globes as hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Allow me to be boyish for a moment. I've had a crush on Tina Fey ever since the first time I watched her do Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. It’s a selfish attraction, replete with what-she-could-offer-me daydreams. No, I don’t mean sexual dreams where I get to put her in handcuffs. This is a holier crush.

Not since Dennis Miller sat in the anchor chair have I so deeply respected and admired a Weekend Update host, a writer so surgically insightful and en pointe witty that he or she need not rely on goofy hijinks to be an SNL cast favorite. I fell for Tina long before she was called upon to lampoon Sarah Palin. I look at a writer like her, physically and intellectually attractive, and I fantasize selfishly about just how awesome of a man I would be if I had what it takes to win such a woman’s affections. This weekend’s box office totals notwithstanding, I am fairly confident it takes something more profound and meritorious than handcuffs.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yes, Please Read Amy Poehler's Book

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amy Poehler reminds me of the high school theatre girls I pined for…is what someone other than me would say. Since I am currently in love with the show Parks and Recreation, I expected I would fall in love with Amy while listening to her book. I did not. Quite the opposite, she reminded me of the strong-headed, take-charge, sometimes overbearing girls in theatre that I never developed crushes on. Have I mentioned yet that I think Yes Please is a great book and highly recommend it?

Amy’s debut book is not a masterpiece, though it is full of humorous and insightful gems. It delivers. It also exudes worthy charm in the form of Amy bringing in other showbiz talents to read certain passages. Patrick Stewart reciting Amy’s haiku is delicious literature. Being of the same generation, I also loved how Amy took me down memory lane with regard to the 80s.

Yes Please feels overly discombobulated at times. I believe, based on some of her introspection, that Amy intentionally lets this book wander and feel chaotic. In doing so she may be trying to capture something that resonates with her life experience. She succeeds, but goes a bit too far. At times I felt disoriented to the point of distraction. In books that are grippingly personal, that is counterproductive.

Perhaps the best chapter involves Amy discussing why she does not want to read your (my) damn script--why I should never plop my unpublished manuscript in her lap, hoping for a shortcut to success. Her insights are keen. In a world teeming with self-publishing “indie” writers who inflate their relevance by acquiring scores of fake Twitter followers, Amy’s unapologetic take on what it takes to truly succeed is invaluable. Hard work. Trial and error, etc. As further evidence of her philosophical merit, Amy demonstrates an awareness that not everyone who succeeds deserves to, and not everyone who deserves to will succeed.

Forgive me for bookending my review with boyish observations about the nature of attraction. (I’m writing this review on Valentine’s Frickin-day). Amy reminds me of the girls in high school theatre whom I did not develop a crush on, but whom I came to respect because I could trust them onstage. Like that girl who co-starred with me junior year in Little Shop of Horrors, who I found a bit overbearing off-stage, but who I was so grateful to have as my scene partner. Would I like more writing from Amy Poehler? Yes, please.

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