Celebrities · Food! · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction

Love, Loss, and What We Ate | by Padma Lakshmi

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir

Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
(Ecco, 2016, 324 pages)

As a devoted Top Chef fan there was no question that I’d be finding the time to read Padma’s memoir. It wasn’t quite as food-focused as you might think, though it’s clear that food has always played a pretty central role in her life. In this memoir Padma opens up about her family, her love life, and the joyful surprise she received when becoming pregnant with her daughter, Krishna.

The whole time I was reading this book I heard Padma’s voice in my head – I think that if I had listened to the audiobook I would have enjoyed the book as much if not more. She has a very specific cadence and tone so maybe I’m just partial to it after hearing it for so long… Regardless, I appreciated that she actually wrote this book. I hadn’t realized she had written articles for magazines prior to this publication. I knew she’d authored a few cookbooks, but that’s a very different writing experience.

I think I was most eager to learn about her love life since she had been married to Salman Rushdie. It was somewhat surprising to learn that she has (and makes a point of acknowledging it in the book) something of a father complex when it comes to the men she’s drawn to. The two main loves of her life both happened to be significantly older than her. Combine that with the surprise pregnancy and not initially knowing who the father was… I came away from this book knowing a lot more than I’d bargained for. That being said, I found her writing style to be relatable and I finished the book feeling like I knew and liked her a lot more than I thought I would.

I definitely recommend this book, but I think you’ll appreciate it a lot more if you’re already a Padma/Top Chef fan. And I realize I left out a substantial part of the book which was Padma addressing her battle with endometriosis. That’s a central aspect of the book and her life and she’s made a concerted effort to raise awareness about it.

Andrew S · Celebrities · Humor · Memoir · Non-Fiction

More Fool Me | by Stephen Fry

More Fool Me

More Fool Me by Stephen Fry
(The Overlook Press, 2014, 400 pages)

In his previous memoir, The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry capped off his account of his days at Cambridge University and his early television career by confessing that the next stage of his career was largely fueled by cocaine. In More Fool Me, he details that frenetic period (the late eighties through the early nineties) as a comedian, actor, writer, and public personality, including his dependency on “Bolivian marching powder” as he calls it.

Fry’s creative and eloquent use of language is, as always, hilarious. In this book, as well as his previous two memoirs, Fry’s humor is put in the service of some serious self-examination. I loved this description toward the end of the book about the purpose of memoir:

“Memoir, the act of literary remembering, for me seems to take the form of a kind of dialogue with my former self. What are you doing? Why are you behaving like that? Who do you think you are fooling? Stop it! Don’t do that that! Look out!” (376).

Though the book is highly entertaining, witty, and very funny, it doesn’t quite live up to the standard of the earlier installments. The final 150 pages or so are made up of Fry’s diary entries from August through November of 1993. There is certainly some interesting stuff there, including stories about friends and celebrities, and the entries are very cleverly annotated for clarification and correction. That said, the details of dinners attended, golf games, daily writing regimes, and other mundane activities can get a bit tedious. The diary does give an often interesting snapshot of the phase of life that Fry discusses earlier in the book, but a short selection of passages would have been much more engaging.

I was also a bit disappointed that Fry didn’t include more stories and reflections about the sketch show A Bit of Fry and Laurie, which he was writing and filming at the time. The diary includes some discussion of the show and his close relationship with the (also hilarious) actor Hugh Laurie, but it focuses mostly on writing schedules and production issues. On the whole, however, a very enjoyable book from a smart, funny, and compassionate man.

Audiobook · Celebrities · Film · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Pop Culture/Entertainment

As You Wish | by Cary Elwes

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
(Touchstone, 2014, 259 pages)

I started listening to the audio verison of As You Wish before I saw the movie The Princess Bride. The first disc was about how the film came to be, how the actors were cast, etc. Then, I thought, “I should probably watch the movie before I go on.” After I finished the book, I wanted to watch it again.

The book is written and read primarily by Cary Elwes who played Westley in The Princess Bride. Elwes is a British actor who does a great job with voices, and when he talked about other actors, he could sound like them too. What makes the audio version of this book even more special are the memories shared by director Rob Reiner and other actors, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Wallace Shawn (“Inconceivable!”), Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest, all who read their own segments of the book. Other memories from Mandy Patinkin (“You killed my father; prepare to die!”), Billy Crystal, and Fred Savage are also interesting but are not read by the actors themselves. Still, whoever read their parts did a nice job emulating their voices. Although Andre the Giant (Fezzik) died in 1993 at the age of 46, there are several heartwarming stories about him in the book. Other stories include how certain scenes were shot, such as the trek up the Cliffs of Insanity (Wallace Shawn was terrified of heights); how the great sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya  was choreographed; and about injuries sustained on the set by interactions with swords AND an ATV, of all things.

This would have probably been a delightful book even if I hadn’t watched the movie after listening to disc 1, but I’m glad I watched it. Now I’ll wait for it to come on tv again so I can see when Westley blacks out during a sword fight for real.

Celebrities · Fiction · Film · History · Julia P

A Touch of Stardust | by Kate Alcott

A Touch of Stardust

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
(Doubleday, 2015, 296 pages)

A Touch of Stardust is a fictionalized account of the making of the epic film “Gone with the Wind.” We are on set with Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, David O. Selznick, and more as they struggle to make a film that was under constant scrutiny and constant change. The reader experiences this world through the eyes of young Julie Crawford, a girl from Ft. Wayne, Indiana who has moved to California with dreams of being a screenwriter. She ends up being offered a job as Carole Lombard’s assistant which puts her in a great position to hopefully make it in her dream profession.

A central part of this book is the relationship between Carole Lombard and Clark Gable. Julie also has a romantic storyline but it doesn’t really have the same feel as Lombard and Gable. You can tell that Alcott did her research on this book. The behind-the-scenes information about “Gone with the Wind” was really interesting. If you’re a fan of the film, the book, or just this classic period in film history I think you’ll have fun reading A Touch of Stardust.

Andrew S · Celebrities · Humor · Memoir · Non-Fiction

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend | by Martin Short

I Must Say

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
(Harper, 2014, 336 pages)

Few people make me laugh as hard as Martin Short does. I love his physical comedy, his characters, and now I love his book. I Must Say – the title comes from the verbal tick of Short’s famous character Ed Grimley – includes stories from Short’s childhood growing up in Ontario, his time at SCTV and SNL, his movie career, and (my personal favorite) the creation of the character Jiminy Glick for the show Primetime Glick. For comedy fans, Short’s account of his early career doing theatre and SCTV in Toronto, where he worked with people like Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Andrea Martin, and Catherine O’Hara, is particularly interesting. He has much less to say about the one year that he spent at SNL, but what he does reveal shows just how much pressure can be on the cast of that show.

As funny and interesting as Short’s stories are, the book is as much about the difficulties and joys of his personal life as it is about his career. His oldest brother died in a car accident when Short was twelve, and both of his parents had died by the time he was twenty. Short’s love for his family is evident in the stories he tells about them, and he describes how facing the tragedy of untimely death has shaped how he lives his life. The later part of the book is largely a tribute to his late wife, Nancy Doleman. It is as heartfelt as it is funny.

Celebrities · Heather D · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)

If You Ask Me

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011, 258 pages)

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White is a quick, fun, and a joy to read. White was 89 years young when she wrote this memoir in longhand. She does a fantastic job at touching on so many different aspects of her life. Each chapter is a light-hearted short story that tells about her working in show business, being married, and her absolute LOVE for animals, especially dogs. The chapters feature great pictures of her during different stages of her life.

She speaks highly of her peers and those she has worked with in the show business including the friendships that have been created along the way. She talks about her appearances on late shows and also the making of movies. She reveals the reasons for choosing to or for choosing not to accept the invitations to be in certain movies.

Her passion to make every day worth living is nothing short of inspiring. She is full of insight and inspirational anecdotes with humorous undertones.

I found this memoir to be a short, sweet, and wonderful story of who Betty White really is; entertaining, witty, intelligent, charming, and humble. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Betty White, and who doesn’t love Betty?

You can also check out reviews of this title from Julia and Ying!

Celebrities · Humor · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Ying L

American on Purpose | by Craig Ferguson

American on Purpose

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson
(Harper, 2009, 268 pages)

Craig Ferguson is a comedian, actor and a talk show host. I enjoyed his sense of humor, but I’ve only watched him a few times. His Late Late Show is very much past my bedtime. This memoir exceeded my expectations. Ferguson was born and raised in a working class neighborhood in Glasgow Scotland. He chronicles his journey from dropping out of high school to becoming a top entertainer in the United States. Even though he stopped going to school at sixteen, he was a voracious reader. His love for literature laid the basis for his later success in writing a novel and three movies. What surprised me was his bravery and honesty in sharing his difficult battles with alcoholism and drug addictions. The book is compelling, truthful and funny. It’s a cut above the average celebrity memoir.