Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve been, Where I’m going, and Where the hell are my keys?

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Billy Crystal’s autobiography called Still Foolin’ ‘Em.  It is a look at the life and career of one of American’s greatest comedians.

This book has a focus on ageing and growing old. Billy was 65 years old when he wrote this in 2013, and the book opens with a hilarious chapter that had me laughing out loud as he reflects on what being 65 looks like- and how terrifying that is!

The book follows a standard autobiography format- the chapters are separated by decade so Billy talks us through his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. These chapters are interspersed with small, funny chapters that work off the ‘growing old’ theme. These are comedic chapters that serve to provide some laughs in between the more ‘serious’ chapters where he talks about growing up, and his life in show business; they include such topics as: the five stages of forgetting things, sex when you’re old, and why you should take care of your teeth. These funny interludes were a delight to read every time.

The book has strong points and weak points. Firstly, the not so good. If you’re not a baseball fan, or don’t know much about the sport, then this book will have large, large sections that won’t appeal to you. Billy, as it turns out, is a big baseball fan, and he talks about his experiences with Mickey Mantle and his time spent with the Yankees a lot. And I mean that, it’s not just one chapter you can skim over, it’s interspersed throughout the entire thing. This may be a really strong point if you are a baseball fan- if you love Billy and Baseball- then definitely get this book, you will love it!

Secondly, this book is edited a little oddly at times. There are sections where he talks about his first daughter a lot, and you can tell he’s a very proud father to both of them, but his second daughter gets only briefly mentioned, and often in the context of other projects or stories. It reads a little bit strangely.

Lastly, and this isn’t necessarily a negative point but is something you should be aware of, the book is quite factual and detailed throughout- a serious account of his life, with funny chapters about ageing placed in between. Some people might expect a comedian’s autobiography to be funny throughout, but that ‘s not what Billy aims to do here. This book is better suited to big fans of his work; it doesn’t suit the casual reader. Some of the chapters about his growing up years read a little dry after the initial funny chapter.

Now, the good points, and there are plenty! Billy has many interesting stories that give people background info into the making of City Slickers, 61, Analyze This and When Harry Met Sally. He tells great stories about the Oscars, and living in New York. One of the most wonderful parts of this book is when Billy talks about his family. He grew up in a big showbiz family, with many musicians and talented artists. He really paints a picture of an amazing upbringing, full of music and laughter, which will make you smile by proxy. However…

I was very surprised to find myself in tears at the end of his book. A book about ageing has to mention death and dying in there somewhere, and whilst he discusses it throughout the book with laughter and jokes, the final chapters of the book talk about the losses of his loved ones, and the difficulty of having to say goodbye to all the wonderful people he introduced us to in the opening chapters. It makes for heartfelt reading which has a real emotional impact.

I would recommend this book for big Billy Crystal fans, fans of baseball, and it would make a great gift for anyone that’s hit the grand mark of 65 years of age or older, there’s a laugh or two to be had here.

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Equal Rites, the first book of the witches collection that makes up the wonderful Discworld series.

For those that have been following along, I’m reading my way through all 41 books of the Discworld fantasy series. They can be read in chronological order, or you can read them in terms of their themed groupings, or “collections.” I’m reading them by collection, according to whatever interests me. I’ve just gotten through the death series, now onto witches!

Equal Rites was published in 1987. It is the third book of the overall Discworld series, and the first of the witches collection.

This book is tightly focused on two main characters, Esk, a young girl from modest beginnings who’s life’s ambition is to become a wizard, and her guardian and friend Granny Weatherwax, a traditional witch who tries to teach her the ways of witchery, but eventually, if not begrudgingly, ends up helping her travel to the Unseen University, to help her reach her wizarding destiny.

The book is filled with satire and humour about gender. In this world it is traditional for girls to be witches, and specialize in the magics that involve herbs, animals and curing potions, and for boys to be wizards, who do more ‘serious’ magic, geometry and star- gazing. Esk is a rebel by nature, upsetting the status quo by demanding to know exactly why a girl can’t be a wizard.

This book is different to those of the Death Collection; it focuses mostly on the relationship, friendship and adventure of the two main characters,. It is a more intimate story, and it is filled with rich descriptions of the towns and lands through which they travel, along with Pratchett’s wonderful humour. In the Death Collection there is more action and more characters, there are various stories intertwined and very few descriptions of landscapes. It’s a matter of personal taste as to which you will like better: this story has two very likeable, funny and inspirational lead characters and the story moves at a slower pace, which is a good thing as it gives you the time to get to know them, and enjoy their journey.

This is a wonderful book for all to enjoy, but is particularly inspiring for young ladies to pursue their dreams and not let anyone tell them what girls should and shouldn’t do!

 

Happy Reading, see you next time on The Boss Book Club!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Hello Everyone and Welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Norwegian Wood, a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1987.

After reading (and reviewing!) Murakami’s recent English releases of Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing I was itching to read more from this author, as the unique, laid back writing style provided one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had. This story did not disappoint, and for those yet to give him a try, Murakami may be one of the best authors you try all year. Norwegian Wood is the novel that pushed him into mainstream fame in Japan, so may be the perfect one to start with.

The story is told in first person viewpoint from our lead character Toru Watanabe. It is 1969 and he is studying at a University in Tokyo. The book provides a casual picture of what student life was like in Japan in the 60s. The story details Toru’s daily student life and his friendships at University. However, Toru is a solitary, somewhat lonely character so it often details how he spends his day, occupying himself with books, music (including the Beatles of course!) and cafes.

There is more of a plot shape in this book compared to Pinball, 1973 which gives the book a nice direction and will make this book more appealing to those who appreciate a destination. Plot is not the point in this book however. It is more focused on the relationships between the characters, and what our lead character is contemplating in his daily life.

The central character of Toru doesn’t read like a character at all, it certainly seems like the author is just writing about his life in the 60s. It is so casually written you feel like you’re walking alongside Toru through Tokyo and spending a University year alongside him.

The book centers around Toru reflecting on his first love, an emotionally troubled woman named Naoko, and the connection they share over the suicide of a mutual friend from their high school years. Also in Toru’s life is a new friendship with a girl named Midori- hip, free thinking and spontaneous, who shares his lectures. The book centers around themes of friendship, love, sexuality, grief, suicide, loneliness and ultimately, the nature of human connection.

Where Murukami really shines is the emotional depth with which he writes. He writes with an emotional intelligence that is truly special, and casually incorporates the seasons, the five senses, memories, thoughts and music all into a picture that seems to require no work at all.

Don’t expect big dramatic moments, expect deep ones and enjoy the journey.

 

5 out of 5 stars- give Murukami a try!

 

Thanks for joining us and Happy Reading!

The Boss Book Club