07 September
Nonfiction Recommendations

Wendy Wasserstein, Julie Salamon, and an Uncracked Spine

Because I have a pretty well-trafficked blog, people with something to promote often try to grab my attention–I get invited to movie screenings and plays; I get press releases about anime conventions and human-rights fundraisers; I get sent pairs of underwear to review. (Seriously. No. Seriously.) But because I’m almost always immersed in writing scripts or reading scripts (or compulsively watching past seasons of Hell’s Kitchen), I often turn things down.

So when a publicist offered to send me an advanced copy of Wendy and the Lost Boys, an epic (anything over 100 pages is epic to me) biography of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, I naturally had to say no. But something in the press release caught my eye: the book was written by journalist Julie Salamon. So I gave the publicist my mailing address and agreed to review the biography.

You see, Julie Salamon wrote one of my favorite books of all time: The Devil’s Candy, a juicy behind-the-scenes expose about the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities, a famously disastrous movie based on the famously successful Tom Wolfe novel. The Devil’s Candy is chock full of insider insight into Hollywood machinations, and serves as an excellent primer for anyone who wants to be a part of the Hollywood establishment. I learned things about how mainstream movies are made that were never even touched upon in my four years in film school. (Perhaps it was one of the reasons I shifted academic paths and pursued an MFA in Playwriting instead?)

The Devil’s Candy is not so much a takedown as it is a cautionary tale and a look at how artists–actors, directors, costume designers, editors, etc.–navigate through vicious terrain simply because they love what they do.

Which brings us to today. The day I’m supposed to post a review of Wendy and the Lost Boys. It’s been a month since I’ve had the book, maybe two…and I haven’t even opened it. It’s not that I don’t want to. I mean, if The Devil’s Candy provides a wealth of knowledge about the film industry, this biography certainly provides invaluable information about theatre, a world that I know and love and would welcome knowing and loving more.

But, obviously, I can’t write a review. All I can do is tell you that I saw a small production of Wasserstein’s An American Daughter many years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I’ve used excerpts from that play in my playwriting classes. I can also tell you that Wasserstein wrote the screenplay for the underrated Paul Rudd/Jennifer Aniston comedy/drama The Object of My Affection, based on the gay man/straight woman novel by Stephen McCauley. The film is an astute exploration of modern-day friendships and an excellent showcase for Rudd and Aniston’s more subtle comic acting.

As for Wendy and the Lost Boys, I hope to post a full review soon. And by soon, I mean check back next year. You see, it’s easier to put on a pair of underwear than to read a book.

[Crossposted at Bamboo Nation.]

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2 Responses to “Wendy Wasserstein, Julie Salamon, and an Uncracked Spine”

  1. Nan Cohen says:

    Reading your post reactivated the burning desire to read this book that I experienced when I read an early review in the NYT. So the publicist should be happy despite the lack of shrewd critical insight based on hours of dutiful reading. Or perhaps because of it!

  2. Howard Ho says:

    Bring it with you to the bathroom. You’ll be amazed at how much literature you get through on brushing your teeth and shaving alone.

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