Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween. Here on the blog, it's book-o-ween. These are the staff recs.

First it's the Fonz himself (not to be confused with his local bronze Doppelg√§nger), Henry Winkler, with a memoir entitled Being Henry: The Fonz... and Beyond

From Daniel Goldin: "After reading Being Henry, I can only feel bad that the publisher decided to put The Fonz in the subtitle. Winkler’s been running from the typecasting for most of his career, and one would have hoped that given the success of his third act, with his recent Emmy for Barry, his beloved work in Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, Children’s Hospital, and much more behind the scenes (did you know that he was a producer of MacGyver?) that people would know who he was without a prompt. Discarded title? Probably was I’m Glad My Parents Died, but that was already taken. That said, this is a most enjoyable memoir, packed with anecdotes, and shining through with Winkler’s charm, passion, and often self-deprecating wit. I love how he gets starstruck by other celebrities. As he notes, he’s still just a kid inside."

And from Tim McCarthy: "Henry Winkler is a good story teller. He’s open about everything and everybody, and his story is close to my heart. I was just a bit younger than the fictional Happy Days high schoolers in 1974 when the show started, and I doubt I was the only young Milwaukee teen who felt a little bit safer just because Fonzie showed up in my living room. It’s an odd confession, I know, but true is true. Hearing the Happy Days backstory is fascinating, and it's just a start. From his parents escaping Hitler's Germany for New York, where they called Henry a dumb dog (in German) because he couldn't read (undiagnosed dyslexia), to the many fine roles he’s played beyond The Fonz, the man has struggled through many difficulties and doubts but always felt an intense need to perform. He created characters at his parents’ parties, also on busses, and in so many plays, shows and films, where he’s always been recognized as a talented actor. He’s a good guy, too — kinder to everyone else perhaps than he is to himself. There's a bronze statue of The Fonz in my home town, and I’m happy to say that I have golden memories of Henry Winkler in my thoughts."

Daniel also recommends Absolution, the new novel by Alice McDermott. Daniel says: "I am a huge Alice McDermott fan, having read all her published novels, and I can say that her latest expands her canvas while staying completely true to her DNA. A conversation between two women leads to memories of the early days of America’s involvement with Vietnam. Tricia, the young wife of an American lawyer in Saigon, meets up, many years after the story, with the daughter of Charlene, the confident and somewhat manipulative friend who hooked Tricia into a fundraising scheme selling Barbie dolls (that’s right – an inadvertent tie-in to a pop phenomenon) in Vietnamese dress. McDemott has an unparalleled gift for small moments and details and is so insightful about the powerful bonds of relationships, whether marriage, family, friendship, or (remembering the period context of the story) servants. And as always, McDermott’s work is in context of a Catholic but not necessarily religious identity – I am afraid I never really understood that to some, the Vietnam War (or to Vietnamese, the American War) could be seen as a battle between the Catholic rulers and the Buddhist rebels, something that drives Tricia’s more devout husband. Sure to please fans (like me) while bringing new McDermott followers into the fold. Beautiful!"

Whoops, this got stuck in drafts! Alas. Well better late than never. Read on!

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