Most of the 1600 additional minutes were spent reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s. The Sirens of Titan, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Melanie Benjamin’s The Girls in the Picture, and John Connolly’s He. This is probably the 20th time I’ve read Sirens: I routinely read most of Vonnegut’s catalog on an annual basis. My only complaint with Little Fires Everywhere, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was that I wasn’t enjoying the story under an umbrella at the beach.
That leaves Girls and He, both of which deal with success, friendship, and love in the early days of Hollywood. The Girls in the Picture weaves the story of a lifelong friendship between ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Mary Pickford and screenwriter and film producer Frances Marion, both of whom were fascinating women way ahead of their time. He slowly builds up to the moment when an arbitrary pairing on a movie set leads to the legendary comedic pairing and deep private friendship between Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy.
I would never have guessed that two books with such similar subject matter could impact me so differently. I was bored to tears by Girls and did not bother to even finish the book, while I stayed up way too long each night reading He. The one thing I did enjoy about both books was how each author included Hollywood stars in bit roles throughout their stories Unfortunately, because of this and a few paragraphs in He I may never be able to watch Curly and Mo in a Three Stooges short again. An odd side note – both books have Charlie Chaplin playing an integral role to the plot in each.
Maybe I disliked Girls because it felt like a variation on a story I’ve read hundreds of times before. And maybe I liked He because it was written in a voice that felt uniquely fresh and nuanced, and because so few books revolve around professional respect and platonic love between two individuals, and men at that. Or it could have been that Mary and Frances, who were so interesting in real life, came across as oddly one-dimensional while Stan and Babe were rendered in such detail I felt as if I had known each personally. I the meantime, I’m going to try and catch some old Laurel & Hardy films to see if the magic I felt while reading He comes through on the silver screen.
How about you? Have you ready either of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are you reading now? I’d love to know…