Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Boy, A Dog, and Scientology

Anne Ylvisaker's book tells Harold Sylvester George Klein's story of the challenges of being different. Because of his size, "Little" Klein can barely keep up with his rowdy, borderline delinquent brothers, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Life changes for Little when he finds and adopts a mongrel, that he names LeRoy, after his mother notes a resemblance to the boys' "ugly uncle" of the same name.

Little and LeRoy spend the remainder of book romping from one adventure to the next. A strong background presence is mom, whose answer to any calamity is to sing "Shall We Gather at the River." Nothing big, or outrageous, or grandly insightful happens, but the mid-century simplicity, episodic plot, and well-crafted characters make for a nice, leisurely spring read. Although there are no big laughs from this book, there are plenty of opportunities for those "Ahh, yes, I remember that" type of chuckles. An enjoyable book.

Now, on to Tom Cruise: The Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton. What was I thinking when I picked this up, huh? There's no good reason why I read this book, but I have two lame excuses. First, my book group has an unnatural interest in Tom Cruise and every move he makes.(There's no excuse for that interest either!) Second, when the book came out, it sold quickly, and we were informed that there would not be a second printing. Immediately, I figured that must be the result of all the lawsuits that the Church of Scientology had threatened against the author. So I read it.

The info on Scientology was intriguing, but an article that appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine a few years ago was more thorough, and, I suspect, better researched. While on the subject of credibility, I had to laugh at the endorsements on the back of the book. One was from "a childhood neighbor," and another came from "a high school girfriend." You can't get more definitive than that, can you?

I did find the pages devoted to the filming of Eyes Wide Shut with director Stanley Kubrick compelling. Kubrick always struck me as emotionally bent - putting the film before the welfare of his actors, and at time immersing them in mental or physical danger in the name of art. If what Morton says even remotely resembles reality, that man was creepy , and used the process of film making to fulfill some aberrant desires.

Next up: Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. I can tell from the first ten pages that I will like this book .