My memoir summer continues into July, with the latest two books I've read:
In "Cockeyed," writer and educator Ryan Knighton recounts growing up a curiously clumsy Canuck -- only to be diagnosed on his 18th birthday with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a congenital, progressive disease marked by night-blindness, tunnel vision and, eventually, total blindness. I had seen Ryan "live" at the cinematic screening of "This American Life Live," which brought together a number of noted writers, musicians and comedians earlier this year for a staged production of the popular NPR show. Knighton's hilarious story (which can be heard HERE) about not being able to find the phone in a hotel room was second only to Tig Notaro's (listen HERE), and primed me for his acclaimed memoir. (Perhaps if Taylor Dayne had been staying in the same hotel I'd have liked his best.) "Cockeyed" has some of the Ryan's comedic touches -- the answer machine bit had me laughing so hard that Larry hid under the bed -- but is as distressing and contemplative as you would expect a book by someone going blind to be. It's fascinating to experience a once-sighted young man's journey into adulthood, as he embarks on higher education, romance and finding his place in a world he thinks he can fool into believing he can still see. Buy HERE.
Picked up the paperback of Tina Fey's bestselling "Bossypants," and had finished it before the sun went down the following day. I asked my brother Bill if he'd read it, to which he replied: "Of course! I thought you were anti-Tina ..." Of course he thought that -- other than "I love your Morning Wood," the thing readers say to me in person most often is, "How come you don't like Tina Fey?" Let me clear that up once and for all: I don't not like Tina Fey. I don't like "30 Rock," which as I told my brother Bill may seem synonymous, but isn't. First off, I'm in the very small percentage of the world who does not like Alec Baldwin. I don't think he's funny, and frankly I don't like looking at his fat ass -- which, I might add, would have been run out of town if he were a former female sex symbol and had let himself go as such. (I wish "Bossypants" had addressed that!) Even more off-putting is Tracy Morgan, whom I find incredibly not funny. From what I've seen, Next, Kenneth the Intern is like a latter-day Larry, Darryl and Darryl when he should be used more sparingly than Carlton the Doorman. And the show's rapid-fire, too-witty-for-its-own-good dialogue just rubs me the wrong way, despite my repeated efforts to try. The closest I've ever come to criticizing Tina is by agreeing with Alessandra Stanley that the comedian is miscast to play herself on the show. But I've always liked Tina the person. And I liked Tina on "Weekend Update." And I liked "Mean Girls," despite its derivative ways. And I liked Tina as Sarah Palin. I dug up the incriminating 2008 post I did about Tina -- read HERE -- to see if I had given the impression that I "hated" her, or if I had changed my feelings about her at all and the truth is no on both counts. In fact, my biggest "complaint" -- other than not liking "30 Rock" -- was that it seemed Hollywood was laying the praise on a little thick for someone who really hadn't earned it yet. I predicted she had something funnier still ahead of her, and I'd say I was right: It's "Bossypants." Full of laugh-out-loud anecdotes of being a teenage fag hag, working menial jobs with crazy clients and coworkers, being a woman in a man's business (comedy) and facing the struggles of domestic bliss, it's easy to see why it's become the template for other memoirs of the moderately famous. It probably won't surprise you to know that the chapter I found least amusing was the one heaviest on "30 Rock," in which she gives shoutouts to her writing staff by highlighting each of their most memorable jokes -- all of which were incredibly not funny, and reminded me why I don't watch! Even so, "Bossypants" is a fun read from cover to cover, regardless of how infallible you think Tina is. (She doesn't think she is, so why must I?) Buy HERE.