Posts Tagged ‘book review’

Sick In Bed With a Book: Review of Ellen DeGeneres’s “Seriously I’m Kidding”

 

REVIEW: Seriously … I’m kidding

Book by Ellen DeGeneres
by Joanne Latimer on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:05am

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Since her last book in 2003, much has happened to Ellen DeGeneres. She hosted the Oscars, married Portia de Rossi, started a record label, debuted on Broadway, became a talk-show host and a spokeswoman for Covergirl—a 50-year-old cover girl and an openly gay cover girl, at that. Most readers of her new book will be fans of the show, hoping for more of Ellen’s loopy charm.

As an extension of her talk-show personality, Seriously . . . I’m Kidding is a success. It has funny rants about meditating, gambling, Portia’s addiction to hand lotion, their pets and punctuality. As a book about the last eight years of DeGeneres’s life, it’s an artful dodge. She tries too hard to entertain readers, and forgoes thoughtful reflection. The substance of the book is supposed to be advice from DeGeneres about how to be happy. She throws out predictable chestnuts like enjoy every day, accept yourself, get a mammogram and colonoscopy and think positively. What are missing are personal stories. The result feels less intimate than an episode of her show. Some chapters are so empty generous readers will suspect they’re satirical—Ellen’s spoof on the genre of comedy autobiography.

Still, a few chapters nearly redeem the entire project. Her “Letter to Mall Security” is priceless, as is her riff on endorphins. She speaks honestly about the difficulty of hosting a daily talk show and being a gay role model. “[When I came out], there were extreme groups that didn’t think I was gay enough. There were other groups of people who thought I was too gay. It didn’t occur to me that when I announced I was gay I would have to clarify just how gay I was.” DeGeneres also speaks openly about her and Portia’s decision not to have children. These candid moments are too few. Ironically, Ellen could take a page from Portia’s book, The Unbearable Lightness, which is more accomplished, personal and entertaining.

Review of Roger Ebert’s “Life Itself”


 

REVIEW: by Joanne Latimer on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 4:15pm

The author of 21 other books, Roger Ebert has finally written a memoir about his personal life, touching only tangentially on his career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and TV personality. That’s risky business, since many readers will expect Hollywood anecdotes in a 415-page book written by someone who saw an early draft of Mean Streets, made movies with Russ Meyer, visited the set of Ingmar Bergman films, bought Quentin Tarantino a chicken sandwich at Cannes, drank with Robert Mitchum in Ireland and went on a pseudo date with Oprah. The memoir is a much more thoughtful reflection on Ebert’s trajectory from a sports reporter in Urbana, Ill., to the living rooms of America.

“I was born inside the movie of my life” is the opening line. Thankfully, he soon drops this conceit and tells an uncontrived tale about his family, his hard-living mentors and his alcoholism. He examines his uneasy relationship with his mother, Catholicism, his weight and his late co-host Gene Siskel. (They were strangers thrown together by a PBS producer. Originally, each thought the other was redundant.) When he does reminisce about showbiz, it’s to record his awe for freewheeling legends like Mitchum, Lee Marvin and John Wayne.

Ebert has had time to think about the Big Questions—God, death, love—while recovering from thyroid cancer treatments that left him unable to talk or eat. Bergman films and Cormac McCarthy’s book Suttreegave him cheer because he “had no use for happy characters. What did they know?” Without a hint of self-pity, Ebert describes what it’s like for an articulate man to have no voice, aside from a computer generated stand-in. What has been his saviour, aside from his selfless wife, Chaz? His blog, where he still follows his winning film-review formula: “Focus on what you saw and how it affected you. Don’t fake it.” Ebert took the same approach to writing this memoir, and the unflinching honesty sent this reader to the library for his other books.