Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Wrap-Up Part 2/Some Soul Searching

If you’re looking for some juice (or much life at all) from Steve Martin you aren’t going to find it with his autobiography. Farrah found it extremely boring. I found it to be an informative view into a shy and private (I’ve also heard him described by those who know him as “boring”) personality I feel I’ve known, but known little of, all my life.

It starts with his days in So. Cal growing up near, and then working for, Disneyland and how that, paired with his fascination with magic, formed the basis for his experimental performance art and stand up career. Magic turned to acting, which turned to stand up. Is learning about someone’s magic fixation interesting? Not really, but when it’s more information than you’ve ever received at one time from a beloved figure, every bite is still pretty savory. (I remember watching him on Larry King in 1991 promoting “My Blue Heaven” and Larry saying that they were tearing through the hundreds of calls coming into the show to find one person who didn’t like him and couldn’t find a single one.)

The book ends when he steps away from stand up and into film, concluding with his first film, The Jerk. So, basically, it ends just as it’s getting good. Along the way you learn about his quiet, somewhat unloving family life, his passion for philosophy and the hippie ideals, and the progression from playing small clubs in San Francisco in front of 10 people to selling out Madison Square Garden and selling millions of records.

This book has something in common with the second review which is for “Love Is A Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield that I will get to in a second.

Sheffield is a writer/editor for Rolling Stone and by far my favorite writer there. He brings a real sense of humor and pop culture fanaticism to what he writes, sprinkling any points he’s making or stories he’s telling with references that are for the truly devoted.

In fact, the book is exactly what I would write if I wrote a book. To be honest, it’s so close to home that it’s easier for me to be sort of critical. For me, it was almost too much of a good thing. Too many sentences in the first person for my tastes, and more meat every now and then would have broken up the cleverness. Sometimes meaningful moments in his life are reduced to song lyrics. I guess that's the point, how life and songs come together. It just seemed like the easy way out once in a while.

Sheffield relates the mileposts of his life with the mix tapes he made or were listening to at the time, literally documenting the soundtrack of his life. Every chapter kicks off with the tape’s tracklist and then relates the stories back to the songs.

Mostly, it tells the story of how he met and fell in love with and married Renee, only to have her die suddenly five years later. It’s about their time together, who she was, why he loved her, and, most importantly, the music they shared with each other. One credit to Sheffield’s retelling of Renee and who she was is that when she dies, you feel a real sense of loss too. Like someone you know has disappeared. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to walk back into your house after returning from the hospital where your loved one just died. An hour earlier, life was completely normal. Then a pulmonary embolism changes everything in a heartbeat and your life is changed forever and the house is empty to remind you of that.

But, there are so many other things about Sheffield’s book that I can relate to. An old girlfriend tells him he looks like Dr. Robot from the Blow Monkeys. I LOVE the Blow Monkeys! He says he just knew an old girlfriend’s favorite Go-Go was Jane Wiedlin. MY favorite Go-Go was Jane Wiedlin, so I know exactly what kind of girl this is! When he first confessed his love to Renee, they were listening to the first Marshall Crenshaw album. I LOVE that album! There are a couple of these on every page.

Still, because it’s so close to my own sensibility, I was as critical as I would be with my own writing. But, if you have a soundtrack to your own life and treasure mix tapes, then this speaks to you in a special language only you understand.

As I’m reading these books I’m getting very depressed because it’s hitting me how envious I am of people who follow their hearts. Whenever I read stories like this, I relate to a point and then have to tell myself “But, what about the church?” or “I wish I could do that, but I’m afraid I would leave the church.” Unfortunately, it’s just managed to cause some level of resentment toward the church and a growing sense of being incomplete within me. Read “A Prayer of Gratitude” for more info.

There is no question that I have a wonderful life and I love my family and friends and I even love the church. But there are times when I wonder who the real me is. The one who isn’t so influenced by, or expected to live by the precepts of the church. In my heart and mind, I think and have always thought, I would be Rob Sheffield, which makes reading his book both good and bad. Or maybe I wouldn’t have been. Maybe I’d be in dark places I should be grateful I’m not in. Not knowing bothers me sometimes. It must be what it would be like to have fallen in love with someone who wasn't Mormon and not marry them because of it. You move on and have a great life and wife and family, but could you have been happier?

I think I also didn't pursue more for 3 reasons.

1) Fear of failure - This is a small one though. It wouldn't have surprised me to fail, so I doubt I would have been too heartbroken about it.

2) No contacts - Probably the biggest one. I've sent lots of clippings into newspapers searching for writing assignments, but they mean nothing without someone going to bat for you.

3) You don't make any money - This was also a big one. I never pursued radio, or print, or broadcasting because you just didn't make any money at it.

These are the reasons I make myself feel better with and they are all legitimate. But, I make good money selling software and couldn't care less about it.

I'm going to have to work this one out.


Marilyn said...

This is a great blog, Jon. I've read and reread it (and Prayer of Gratitude) many times, and wish I could say just the right thing to touch your soul and help you find the self fulfillment that seems to elude you. I want you to feel on top of the world - you are so amazing. I know that gifted people are often tormented. Maybe it just comes with the territory. But try not to get lost in the dark places of your mind and heart; let the light shine through. Add "There is Sunshine in My Soul Today" to the soundtrack of your life (I know it sounds corny, but just do it for me because I love you so much and want you to be happy). We are so looking forward to being with you this weekend. Drive carefully. Love you always, Mom

Lyndie said...


Every time I read one of your blogs I am touched in one way or another. And each time I come to leave you a comment, I find your mom has said it better that I ever could have and then some.

I remember living in Orem 10 years ago and having conversations with you about life, love, loss, music, family, relationships and thinking how you were one of the best conversationalists I have ever known. Not much has changed since then... I still find your words facinating, raw, and exposed. Thank you for sharing the best parts of you with all of us.

Your mom is right on... remember the things in your life that bring you joy. You are so blessed in many ways... with Farrah, Georgia, and your family. You are a loved man and have many friends near and far. Don't ever forget that.


Farrah said...

Yes, Jon, you have me and Georgia and what more could you want from life you greedy, greedy man?