Monday, March 19, 2012

Not Albee's Zoo Story

Driving through downtown last week, I notice that the Lakeshore Cinema was showing We Bought a Zoo. That book has been on my To-Read pile for months, and the marquee, along with the fact that I was between books...well, that's all I needed to coax me to dig in.

I'm not a fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. In fact, before Emily Trask set out to parts hither and yon, finally landing in New York via Yale, she worked here at LaDeDa. On the rare occasions when we ran out of book or theatre talk, Emily would pick up a random Chicken Soup volume and do an over the top reading. She usually picked up one of the CS books filled with animal cat saved my dog could see into my hamster warned me that the man I was dating was no good....that sort of thing. I often thought we could do an entire evening - ET Presents CS - but then I didn't want to insult all the good people who find comfort and inspiration in those books.

We Bought a Zoo has some of those same elements, making it predictable, to say the least. Beginning with grieving father, thrown into parenting a pre-school daughter, and a moody pre-pubescent son, and ending with - well - happiness, revitalizing a neglected zoo becomes the obvious metaphor for bringing a family back to life. Very CS-ish!

What saves this book is the writing. Benjamin Mee is a journalist. His style is clean. He reports the facts and allows the emotion and sentimentality to grow out of the real life struggle. And unlike the evil Amy Chua (see previous post for clarification!) he doesn't dwell on himself, but rather shares the spotlight with his children, his employees, and of course, the animals.

I liked this book except for a difficult scene with a tiger. Who would have thought that tiger-on -cover pretty much ends up like dog-on-cover books. Go ahead and read it anyway. It's fast, and there are some nice animal photos including one of a capybara, a huge rodent. You want me to admit to anything, no matter how big, or awful, even if I didn't do it - just waltz any rodent past me, and I'll sign a confession on the spot. Just imagine what a capybara, a rat, and a basket of snakes will get ya!

***Other bits of tid (tidbits for those of you who don't speak John Lennon) ......

Our guest blogger, Steve, has been teasing you with hints about his novel. Well, I hope to make you all jealous by telling you that he sent me the first four chapters to read, review and comment. When I agreed to look over the chapters, I forgot how much I hate not knowing things. So, here I am, stuck in the beginning stages of a mystery; there's a body in car, and a cast of colorful characters lining up to investigate, or to be identified as persons of interest, YIKES! - red herrings.

If you're reading this, Steve, my goal this week is to do some detailed feedback, and send the pages back to you. Hope you'll still speak to me after I put my two cents worth on your work.

Other updates of significance:

Heart-A-Rama is coming along nicely. Get your tickets now at the Pig or at Inman's. We have an accordion player and banjo player in the show this year. Now, how can you resist that. Banjo player is rehearsing her at 5:30 tonight. Drop by.

DWTH starts tonight!