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review 2019-02-15 09:48
Always look on the bright side of life!

 

 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sorta biography

Eric Idle

Audible Audiobook

Version: Unabridged

Publisher: Random House Audio

Audible.com Release Date: October 2, 2018

ASIN:B07CX4LPPB

https://www.amazon.com/Always-Look-Bright-Side-Life/dp/B07CX4LPPB

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

As Eric Idle himself says in the introduction to his new memoir, over the years we've been given a deluge of histories, documentaries, and other memoirs about the careers of the six Monty Pythons. So can Idle's "sorta" autobiography give us anything new?

 

Not having read all the books Idle alluded to, I can't fairly answer that question. I suspect if you're one of those who have, in fact, read and seen everything related to the funniest comedy troupe of all time, I suspect you'd still enjoy a book that is as funny as the Pythons used to be.  After all, Idle has written comedy material since 1963 and his new book demonstrates just how comic one writer can be.

 

But if you're one of those who loved and enjoyed Monty Python without getting immersed in all the appreciations and analysis they've received over the years, than Eric Idle's new memoir is a real treat. And very revelatory. For example, one delight for me was learning about Idle's pre-Python work in British comedy we Yanks never saw. And the post Python projects like Spamalot and his many tours with John Clease.

 

It's still difficult for me to grasp that the heyday of Monty Python  ran from 1969 to 1983 with occasional projects sprouting up from time to time thereafter. As my 14 year old grandson is a Monty Python junkie, you'd think they were still pumping out new material. Nope.

 

Of course, no one's life is all just their most celebrated achievements, so we learn much about Eric Idle's personal life in his breezy memoir. Poignant chapters discuss his painful growing-up years, his time at Cambridge, and his friendships with the likes of George Harrison and Robin Williams and their tragic ends. So this memoir isn't a laugh fest on every page and shouldn't have been.

 

Still, along the way, Idle gives us generous samplings of old skits like the "Eric the "half-A-Bee" song and repeated discussions of how his most famous song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," has been used and reused in all manner of both expected and unexpected places. I must agree with other reviewers who complain that some sections, especially in the latter half, are jammed thick with gratuitous name-dropping and overlong passages describing Idle's active social life, partying with the stars. In such patches, skimming might be the way to go.

 

Without question, if you can get this book in its Audible Audiobook format as read by the author, that's the way to do it. You can feel his style, hear him occasionally verge on breaking into laughter,  hear him sing, and get the full Eric Idle treatment. And that's the reason you got this book to begin with, right?

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 14, 2019:

https://waa.ai/owcg

 

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review 2019-02-11 10:00

 

 

Guarding Gable: A Novel

Nat Segaloff

Paperback:264 pages

Publisher:BearManor Media (Jan. 10 2019)

ISBN-10:1629334065

ISBN-13:978-1629334066

https://www.amazon.com/Guarding-Gable-Nat-Segaloff/dp/1538585553

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

 

At first glance, it might seem an exploration of actor Clark Gable's World War II service in the Army Air Corps after the death of his beloved wife, Carole Lombard, might be best suited to a non-fiction treatment. Happily, author Nat Segaloff chose to write an imaginative memoir featuring Gable's years in uniform as told from the Point of View of the apparently fictional Alan Greenberg. Greenberg is a junior publicist assigned by MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer to make sure Gable doesn't get into any dangerous situations, especially since the death of his wife has left Gable in a suicidal mood.   So we see a friendship between star and publicist grow as well as a love triangle between them and a British publicist named Mavis Roberts.

 

Few authors can come close to having the credentials to pull off this novel like Nat Segaloff. Writer/ producer/ journalist Segaloff has penned 16 books on Hollywood subjects, was a studio publicist himself, has written stage and audio-plays, not to mention co-authoring and co-producing TV and radio scripts, many with a sci-fi bent. And these are but a few of his career highlights.

 

Not surprisingly, Guarding Gable is full of Segaloff's awareness of how a star of Gable's magnitude would be treated in the 1940s by the studio, the military, and the public.  On top of that, what was most impressive to me were the many scenes of Gable flying over the continent in various bombing missions despite orders to stay on the ground. The detail Segaloff provides about the huge planes and the fliers who manned them in the Army Air Corps gives the book a level of excitement and suspense it wouldn't have had if Gable had followed orders. Or if  Segaloff had given us a nonfiction book reliant on material necessarily cited from research sources.

 

The depth of the relationships Segaloff paints is first rate, especially between Gable and Greenberg as the star of Gone With the Windgains more and more respect for his "orderly." The romance between Greenberg and Roberts is far from a typical one and is also handled very deftly as the story progresses. The numerous supporting characters are vividly sketched and all entirely believable. 

 

So who is the primary audience for this novel? Certainly Gable fans and enthusiasts of the 1940s era in Hollywood. So too World War II buffs interested in the Army Air Corps in Europe. But I'd go further and say anyone who enjoys a good story that is vivid, richly detailed, fast-paced, and illuminating should enjoy this one.

 

While I didn't get to hear it, I understand the audiobook for Guarding Gable is enhanced with sound effects and dialogue from the actual films Gable made during the war. Sounds like a fun way to go if audiobooks is your thing.

 

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 9, 2019:

https://waa.ai/oclw

 

 

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review 2019-02-11 09:35
A tribute to...

 

 

MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY

Herbie J Pilato 

Paperback: 458 pages

Publisher: Jacobs Brown Press (January 25, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0999507850

ISBN-13: 978-0999507858

https://www.amazon.com/MARY-TYLER-MOORE-STORY/dp/0999507850#customerReviews

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

 

Mary isn't the first show biz bio I've read from Herbie J Pilato, a founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society. I first learned about the depth of Herbie's TV expertise when I read his 2007 The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar man and the Bionic Woman Reconstructed. After that, he produced several adoring books about Bewitched  star, Elizabeth Montgomery.

 

Now, Pilato has presented us with a in-depth, exhaustive bio of a star he clearly also adores, a star most of us out here in TV-Watcher land love as well. Mary Tyler Moore, and her more iconic roles like Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, certainly did turn the world on with her smile. If that number includes you, then this is a book for you.

 

To greater and lesser degrees, most of us know quite a bit about the biography of Mary Tyler Moore, her career, her private life, her struggles, her successes and failures.  There's so much in the public record, including the autobiographies Moore wrote.

 

What Herbie J. Palato has given us is a one-stop tome that covers everything one could ask for about Moore herself, her colleagues, her relationships, her misfires and triumphs, her self-consciousness and lack of self-esteem in terms of her looks,  not to mention her causes like diabetes research and animal rights.

 

When an author devotes this much attention to a beloved subject, there can be some excesses in the text. In this case, there's a lot of repetition, notably the countless references to the importance of Ordinary People in Moore's career. There are numerous paragraphs summarizing the careers and roles of those Moore worked with at one time or another. Of course, this makes Mary an easy book to skim.  But keep your eyes open to catch the streams of nuggets Pilato gives us. We get a portrait of a woman in 3-D, including her shortcomings, talents, work ethic, parental skills (or lack of them) and her insights an perspectives regarding her important and influential career. And surprises--I didn't know her animal rights activism extended to protecting lobsters. Books like these are also good for reviewing lesser known projects like talk show appearances, guest-starring and cameos on TV series, and public speaking. For the first time, I got the story to what happened to the short-lived1985  Mary series co-starring John Astin from Addams Family fame. I got the insider stories behind the sad attempts to reunite the Dick Van Dyke cast and especially the dreary Mary and Rhoda TV movie.

 

Naturally, you got to have some real interest in the biography of Mary Tyler Moore to want to dive into this very detailed and balanced tribute. Someone needed to write this book, and who better than Herbie J. Pilato. He knows how to do it.

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 5, 2019:

https://waa.ai/oCZ1

 

 

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review 2019-01-28 09:12
Fantastic informative memoir

 

 

 

Rock Doc

Neil Ratner, MD

Paperback:  317 pages

Publisher:  Rock Doc Entertainment LLC; 1st edition (January 28, 2019)

ISBN-10:  1732379017

ISBN-13:  978-1732379015

https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Doc-Neil-Ratner-MD/dp/1732379017

 

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

 

 

I was intrigued when I read a blurb for Neil Ratner's new Rock Doc when I saw his memoir included stories about the professional careers of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Pink Floyd, Edgar Winter, and Rick Derringer during their various heydays in the 1970s.   I wasn't disappointed. Roughly one-quarter of the book is Ratner's account of his years as a personal manager, tour manager, and production supervisor for those talented performers.

 

Then, Ratner's autobiography shifts gears as he describes how he left the happy rock and roll lifestyle to enter medicine and specialize as a pioneering anesthesiologist. After establishing the break-through idea of setting up anesthesiologist services in doctor's offices to reduce the need to use hospital operating rooms, Ratner described the day Michael Jackson walked into his office and Ratner's life forever changed.

 

After that, reader interest in the longest section of the book will depend on your interest in Michael Jackson. Ratner unfolds a long, warm, intimate relationship he and Jackson shared both professionally and personally for decades. The account is as revelatory as anything I've read on Jackson's complex life. Those much more familiar with his story might not find too much new other than Ratner's passages on his relationship with the singer.  Personally, I was glad to learn so much about Jackson's, and Ratner's, relationship with Nelson Mandela and their many strong connections to South Africa. 

 

The book takes another sharp turn when Ratner details his experiences with the legal system after he's convicted for insurance fraud. while I might have missed these chapters if I'd given up reading the Michael Jackson saga, I'd have missed a very positive, rather uplifting story of redemption and a growing spiritual depth Ratner acquired in prison. What he does after his incarceration is another surprising turn and an admirable one at that. Very admirable.

 

Since Rock Doc touches so many bases, the potential readership should include those interested in rock and pop history, medicine, Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela and South Africa, not to mention all the transformative perspectives Ratner shares as he summarizes his more recent years. The memoir is told with a personal, often passionate tone that is candid enough to disarm all but the most cynical of readers.

  

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Jan. 25, 2019:

 

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review 2016-01-06 11:10
The Explorer - James Smythe
The Explorer - James Smythe

I somehow liked this book. It's a strange story. Right from the start you learn that all of Cormac Eastons crewmembers died. One after the other. Then Cormac is alone on this space ship and nothing really happens. Then this time loop happens and Cormac sees his journey again. And he gets to know why all his crewmates died.

 

I cannot explain why this story got me. Cormac is a strange narrator. He is not so entertaining as the Martian Mark Watney. He is quite the opposite. He also lacks some empathy. But I liked the dark atmosphere and I wanted to know what happend at the end. So, I quite enjoyed it.

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