Monthly Archives: January 2016

Review: A Million Little Pieces

41g7xxsr2olRecap: Since he was ten years old, James Frey has been drinking. He’s been smoking pot since he was a teenager and doing hard drugs since he graduated high school. Arrests and sweet girlfriends couldn’t get him to stop. So finally one day, he woke up on a plane with a broken nose, missing teeth and no idea where he was headed. It turns out, he was headed to meet his parents, who were taking him to a rehab facility — one of the best in the country — at the age of 23. With his life and his heart in a million little pieces, he spends the duration of the book trying to put it all back together in rehab.

He gets into fights and refuses to accept the Twelve Step program. He starts dating a girl named Lilly even though it’s against facility rules. But eventually makes friends, reads books sent to him by his brother and makes amends with his parents, who visit for the family program.

Analysis: If you’re wondering “is this the ‘fake memoir’ whose author Oprah embarrassed on national television years ago?”, the answer is yes. But for me, the controversy that comes with the book makes it all the more interesting. Knowing the background allowed me to read the book more as a fictionally-embellished memoir or straight-up fiction novel and therefore enjoy it. Sure, had I read it ten years ago as a memoir and learned afterwards that many of the characters and experiences in Frey’s life were fabricated, I would have been upset. But it likely wouldn’t have — and didn’t now — stop me from still finding the Frey’s struggle with drugs both fascinating, sad and educational — however enhanced they may be.

Frey’s writing style also mirrors the struggle of an addict. New paragraphs are not indented. Many sentences are run-ons. Selective words are capitalized throughout the books, like Family or Girl or Fury. Those choices parallel the messiness, disorder and classification of things good and bad with which an addict tends to deal. One can assume that Frey’s staying sober is real since he’s now a well-known published author. The “friends” he references throughout the book mostly end up in jail or dead in the books’ epilogue. Even though those characters may not be real, I believe that their endings are likely real for most addicts of that level. The book’s details may not be real, but the experience seem true, and that makes it worth reading.

Get A Million Little Pieces in paperback for $9.25.

Or on your Kindle for $11.99.

 

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Why It’s No Surprise ‘Friday Night Lights’ Author Buzz Bissinger is Writing Caitlyn Jenner’s Memoir

buzzcaitlyn-lrg1Ever since Caitlyn Jenner debuted on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine it became clear to the world that this article was opening the door to her eventual and inevitable memoir. It was recently announced that her memoir will debut sometime in the spring of 2017.

Also new was the announcement that Pulitzer Prize-winning Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger is helping to write it.  Entertainment Weekly sat down with Bissinger, who explained the memoir will remain written in first person from Caitlyn’s perspective.

It should come as no surprise that Bissinger is writing the memoir, since he wrote that now famous Vanity Fair cover article about Jenner. He also is a former sports writer, while Jenner is a former athlete. But there’s another reason it should also come as no surprise that Bissinger is writing it: Bissinger has spoken openly about coming to terms with his sexual identity and cross dressing. All this came out in a GQ article he published in 2013, entitled “My Gucci Addiction,” in which he also explained his addiction to couture clothing, writing:

I began to wonder about sex and sexuality and where exactly I fit in in the complex spectrum. I did go into the sexual unknown, and the clothing I began to wear routinely gave me the confidence to do it, to transcend the rigid definitions of sexuality and gender, just as I also know there were the requisite stereotypical snickers.

In his more recent interview with EW, he said he developed a special bond with Jenner while writing her piece for Vanity Fair, but he doesn’t go into the details. He could very well mean that when you write a piece about someone that’s as personal as that one was, you’re bound to form some kind of connection with your interview subject. But I would imagine it’s also likely he felt a deeper connection and understanding of what Jenner was going through at the time, and it probably helped Bissinger to become more comfortable and understanding of his own identity.

Either way, his insanely talented writing abilities — Friday Night Lights is easily one of the best books ever written — are sure to make this memoir incredibly well done with in-depth reporting and description that would make even the most skeptical reader find truth.

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Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ Released in Germany for First Time in 70 Years

76793512Mein Kampf, or what would be translated as My Story, is the autobiographical book that helped place Adolf Hitler in a position of power in Germany before WWII. Because of that, the German state of Bavaria refused to print the book after Germany lost World War II. But as of January 1, 2016, the book’s copyright expired, and now Mein Kampf has reached bestseller status.

 

According to Mic, only 4,000 copies were planned the first printing of this new — and annotated — edition. As of last week, pre-orders hit 15,000.

The new version was annotated those reading it for scholarly use. An author featured last week on NPR’s “Fresh Air” said Mein Kampf is written in mostly statements, not arguments, and that the book is less impactful than Hitler’s speeches and oratory at the time. He had no fears about what the reprint of the book could mean. Other supporters also agree that the book serves an educational and scholarly purpose.

But since our current world still experiences so much hatred toward other ethnicities, races and religions, it’s hard for me to understand the good that the re-release of Mein Kampf brings. I believe in free speech, and as a Jewish person, I am curious to try and understand where his anti-Semitism started. But the thought of a vulnerable, irrational person reading this also makes me nervous.

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RIP Alan Rickman, the Man Who Brought Severus Snape to Life

severus-snape-in-alan-rickman-s-own-words-is-one-of-the-most-heart-felt-tributes-you-will-429332Just four days after the birthday of the character he became famous for playing, British actor Alan Rickman has died of cancer at the age of 69.

Rickman is known for his roles in many movies, including Die Hard, Robin Hood, and Love Actually, but for most millennials, he’s probably best known for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, which is why for many other 20-somethings and myself, hearing the news of his death this morning came as a complete — and painful — shock.

Rickman’s portrayal of Snape was much more than just a role acted out on screen. It was the personification of a character that is so meaningful to children and literature. Snape was the first character I loved to hate. He teaches children the complexity of adulthood and shows how childhood affects who you become as an adult. Snape represents the idea that people aren’t always who they seem and that there is inherent good and evil in all of us. Rickman excelled at bringing this complexity to the screen and emotion to our hearts.

The entire Harry Potter series is nostalgic for many of us, who have either read the books, seen the movies or both. The death of an actor who is so representative of a beloved character makes it feel like part of my childhood ended today. But there is also some tragic beauty that comes with the thought that Rickman has possibly met Snape in his death.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted about Rickman’s death today, but several years ago when the Potter films were completed, Rickman wrote a letter for Empire Magazine, in which he wrote this about Rowling: “It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller.” The same could be said for Rickman — another storyteller in his own right. Thank you, Alan Rickman. And Severus Snape. Always.

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‘Games of Thrones’ Spoilers from Unfinished Book May Appear in New Season

18377268Promises are meant to be broken, right? Well, George R. R. Martin is doing just that. The latest Game of Thrones book he promised to have finished by early this year and published by March isn’t finished yet.

According to Los Angeles Times, he wrote a truly apologetic message to fans on his blog Saturday, explaining “Believe me, it gave me no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed… but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me.”

Asked if the season would include spoilers, he said, “Maybe. Yes and no.” But he also said, “Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.”
Not having read the books or seen the show, I can only imagine what fans must be thinking. I think it’s fair at this point to consider the show and book series separate. That said, the concept of Martin revealing some upcoming plot lines of the novel in the new season is pretty thrilling — for both viewers and readers.

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Review: Walking Distance

51pmbjwq2bil-_sx322_bo1204203200_Recap: David and Lisa are having trouble conceiving. But on some level, they’re not entirely sure they even want a child. Frustrated with the crossroad in their lives, they decide to take time off, travel and search within themselves to learn what they truly want. But this is not a story about a trip to the Caribbean — though it does include one. This is a true story of how David and Lisa took a month to walk the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle, St. James the Great, in northern Spain.

They spend months studying Spanish and acquiring the appropriate footwear to prepare themselves intellectually, socially and physically for the very spiritual road ahead. The pilgrimage itself proves to be harder than expected. They must stop to go to the hospital. They drive, if absolutely necessary. Instead of camping or staying in hostels, they book nice hotel rooms. And while at times, they feel as though they’re cheating, it pays off when they make it to shrine. Their spiritual journey gives them the answers they were looking for: they do want children. The path propels them to come home and refocus their energy on the future — a new home and conceiving once again. And while a pregnancy finally happens for them, that, too, is not without difficulty.

Analysis: Similar to Eat, Pray, Love, author David Hlavsa takes us on his own personal international journey to find what he wants to have at home. Even having studied abroad in Spain, I never knew about the Camino de Santiago, which made his short and sweet memoir all the more fascinating. I understand why Hlavsa explains that friends and family thought he and his wife were crazy to take on this challenge; if someone in my family were to do it, I would also look at him like he had a few screws loose.

But Hlavsa explains his rationale in a way that made me understand why he and his wife had to do this. While the topic of the memoir is serious and sad, Hlavsa keeps the book charming, entertaining and humorous with sections about his wife’s inability to speak Spanish and their adventures with exotic food. The first half of the book is exciting as they make their way on the journey.

But when they come home, the book takes a dark turn as their pregnancy doesn’t go as planned. The ending and epilogue is ultimately satisfying, but to say parts of this book were difficult to read would be an understatement. That said, the memoir made me consider what I would if I were in his situation. It encouraged me to have serious talks with my fiancé about our future and where we stood if  we were to have trouble conceiving one day. A book that’s hard to read is worth it if it makes you think. And that’s exactly what Walking Distance did for me.

Get Walking Distance in paperback for $14.16

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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