Ambitious Summer Reading List: When Eight Bells Toll By Alistair MacLean (1966)

I have a never ending weakness for free stuff. If there’s a table of things up for grabs, I will definitely peruse that. One of the greatest non-work, non-people things I loved about working at Wizard was the killer free table where I encountered all kinds of amazing things ranging from CDs to action figures and every geeky thing in between. With that in mind == always, literally — I was incredibly excited to see that my local library had its own free table. To my understanding, this is where they put the things they don’t place into the system or try to sell in the store. Castoffs? I love them. That’s how I discovered more than a few great books including Clive Barker’s The Inhuman Condition and today’s entry Alistair MacLean’s When Eight Bells Toll. Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: When Eight Bells Toll By Alistair MacLean (1966)

Ambitious Summer Reading List: Cary Grant By Marc Eliot (2004)

We just got back from a week-long vacation and I’ve finished another book from the Ambitious Summer Reading List! First, I knocked out The Death-Bringers by Dell Shannon, then I finally finished Stephen King’s Desperation, I read all of Marc Eliot’s Cary Grant in about three days and I’m now nudging my way into Alistair MacLean’s When Eight Bells Toll, but that’s a story for another post.

I decided to buy this bio on the Hollywood legend after reading George Hamilton’s fascinating autobiography a few years back. It’s been a while since I read that one, but I have this vague memory of Hamilton mentioning how Grant rode onto a golf course on a horse or something along those lines. It must have been enough to capture my curiosity, because I ordered the book…and then it sat in a box for several years.   Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: Cary Grant By Marc Eliot (2004)

Ambitious Summer Reading List: Desperation By Stephen King (1996)

Two down, fourteen to go! Considering summer only officially started a few days ago and I’ve got a few week long vacations in the offing, it’s almost looking like I’ll make it through a good number of these books! As I said when I wrote about Dell Shannon’s The Death-Bringers, I’d actually been reading Stephen King’s Desperation when I not only put this Ambitious Summer Reading List together, but also when I took a break to read through that much shorter police procedural. Why you ask? Because Desperation is a tough book to read for both good and bad reasons.

Continue reading Ambitious Summer Reading List: Desperation By Stephen King (1996)

Ambitious Reading List: Born Standing Up By Steve Martin (2007)

As I’m nearing the end of this Ambitious Reading List, I find myself looking forward to the next one and have even started assembling that stack. The problem with that is that I want to burn through the four books I have left with a quickness. While I did return to Devil In The White City and am working my way through it, I started getting a little antsy and wanted some immediate gratification, so I grabbed Steve Martin’s 207 page Born Standing Up and read it in a few days. And you know what? I got exactly that.

The first time I read Crime and Punishment, I was in high school and someone in the class said they wanted to know what happened to Raskolnikov after he was SPOILER imprisoned and the teacher responded that the book would need a new title then. He went on to make the point that stories need to have a focus. Raskolnikov’s story could go on until he died, but Dostoevsky was telling the story of Crime and Punishment, not Crime and Punishment and Whatever Happens After That Until He Dies. Steve Martin took a very similar approach to Born Standing Up. This is not a complete history of the man from birth to the stage, through movies and on to his current turn as a concert banjo player, it’s just about his life and performing career up to the point when he left stand up in the late 70s/early 80s.

I appreciate that kind of focus and while I would definitely be interested in reading another biography about more of his film work and recent endeavors, this book does a great job of telling what feels like a complete tale with beginning, middle and end, something Martin says he liked to bring to every one of his performances. The only real problem I had with Laurie Lindeen’s Petal Pushers was that it didn’t feel like a complete story because she glossed over the break up of the band. I did not have similar problems with this book.

One problem I thought I would have is that I wasn’t sure how serious Martin would be. His comedy lies in the realm of the absurd, so I wasn’t quite sure. Many years ago I borrowed Leslie Nielson’s supposed autobiography The Naked Truth from the library in hopes of learning more about a comedy icon I held in great esteem only to discover a few pages in that it was all a joke, one that I wasn’t in on or expecting. Though I had heard good things about this book, I did have the nagging feeling it might not be as honest as I wanted it to be. Again, that wasn’t a problem.

Martin offers a poignant, honest, real memoir here that not only proves that anyone who works hard can have a chance at making it, but also presents show business in a very truthful light (it ain’t all great). It sounds cliche, but this book really does have it all, ti can make you laugh and cry and really think about life. It’s refreshing to see someone who achieved such huge success — at the time he was the most comedian of all time between ticket and album sales — look back on his life and give a balanced account of what he did and went through. If you’re a fan of Martin’s stand-up and films or the real life portrayal of the life of comedians expressed on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, do yourself a favor and read this book.

With Born Standing Up out of the way that leave me to finish Devil In The White City and then read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Please Kill Me which I plan on reading in that order. Devil is one of those weird books that I enjoy reading while I’m reading it, but once I put it down it’s almost like a mind wipe and I don’t want to jump right back in, a feeling that grows the longer between reading sessions. I’m dedicated to getting back into it the rest of this week and deciding once and for all if I’ll keep on with it.