Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and Me: In my Anecdotage, by Eli Wallach

The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My AnecdotageI actually borrowed this book from my husband’s bookshelf. Although they are never anything I would buy for myself, once he gets them, his books always look so interesting to me. He has very different tastes in books than I do, and while I am interested in his books, I seriously doubt he is interested in mine. But I digress.

This book is quite a departure for me. For one, I hate, and I do mean HATE, autobiographies. Most of the time, I find them poorly written, boring, badly edited, and generally lackluster. The last time I read an autobiography I actually liked was when I read “Elvis and Me” by Priscilla Presley, and I was in the 5th grade, so my expectations were pretty low (thanks to the Sweet Valley Twins). I guess I take that back, I love Frank McCourt’s books, but those are more of memoirs. Maybe that is why I liked this one so much, it is also more of a memoir.

Another reason I am shocked I read this book, and liked it, is because it is about Eli Wallach. All I knew of Eli Wallach was he was in westerns. If there is anything I hate more than autobiographical books, it is western movies. So an autobiography about a western movie star? I was more than a little doubtful. But my husband read me a couple of snippets one night, and I knew instantly I HAD to read this book.

So what makes this book about Eli Wallach so great? ELI WALLACH. He excels as an author for the same reason he excels as an actor; the man is one hell of a storyteller. The book is a simple read, I think I completed in a little over 26 hours. My husband said he wished the book was 75% about the film “The Good The Bad and The Ugly”, and 25% about everything else. I love the book precisely because it is not.

We learn about Wallach’s struggle for legitimacy within his own family, when it came to his passion for acting. We learn about his loyalty to the theater. We learned about the Method Acting movement in America, and the part he played in it. We learn about his struggle to balance his career with that of his wife, also a successful actress. I learned so much.

The first time I ever heard of Eli Wallach, being the western hater I am, was New Years Eve 2008, when my then boyfriend, now husband, begrudgingly watched the movie "The Holiday” with me. All of the sudden, he exclaimed, “Oh my god, it’s The Ugly!”. Never did I think some chick flick would result in me reading a book about a man who acted in westerns, but I am so glad it did.

As I said, I get into reading ruts. This means I do not really stretch my reading muscles that much, and I do not always grow as much as I could from reading. However, this book really pushed me. It took me to places I had never been. I was in Brooklyn with him, I was in Hawaii with him, I was on the stage with him, hell I was on a horse with him. And I loved every minute of it.