Saturday, May 16, 2015

Live from New York (by James Miller and Tom Shales)

I've been slowly re-reading this book at the gym over the course of several months. I had been eagerly anticipating the newly expanded edition, which picks up where the previous edition left off and includes about a decade of new material.

The first thing that perplexed me was that none of the old material had been updated. Some of the quotes were now out of date (like a reference to Conan's studio in New York) and none of the early chapters had interviews with any of the new cast -- I was anticipating the chapter dishing on the guest hosts to be updated with details about more recent hosts -- like Jon Hamm or Justin Timberlake -- but it didn't seem to be at all. So that felt like a huge missed opportunity.

I also thought maybe they would re-interview some of the people they interviewed the first time around, to get updated quotes. (I know Bob Odenkirk has said he felt he was misquoted.) But it seemed to be exactly the same for the first 600 or so pages and not updated at all. So I plodded along on my exercise equipment, enjoying the re-read and waiting.

Then you get to the new stuff. My impression is that it was very rushed. The writing of the intros for the new chapters is often awkward ("When Saturday Night Live is at its best, it serves as one big selfie..."), the quotes aren't smoothly edited, and there are so many people whose memories feel very under-plundered. They have one or two quotes and then that's it, so it doesn't have the feeling of depth that the first edition had.

Of course, I am happy that they updated this book at all. It was just a letdown compared to my expectations of it. I would have been happy with 600 more pages on the last decade of SNL -- maybe they should have waited a few more years and then published Live from New York: Volume Two.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Boys Kissing (by David Levithan)

I feel bad saying this book was disappointing, because it has an Important Message for gay teenage boys and I think would be very moving and meaningful if I were a gay male teen. It's the story of two boys attempting to break the world record for longest kiss, and it's narrated by the dead victims of the AIDS epidemic.

The problem for me was that I am not the target audience for this. The narrative voice just did not work for me very well. I guess after The Band Played On and How to Survive a Plague, the musings of the narrator felt superfluous, and it put distance between me and the characters, to the extent that I couldn't clearly visualize or connect to most of them. They never felt fully realized, and neither did their actions or dialogue. They felt like vehicles for the musings of the previous generation.

I like the concept and I'm glad this book exists for the audience it is aimed towards. But for me, it fell flat.