Sunday, August 17, 2008

If I Only Knew Then... compiled by Charles Grodin

Perennial funny man Charles Grodin tapped a bunch of his friends and acquaintances for help with this book. It is a collection of essays, ranging from 1 page to 20+ pages. Each contributor was asked to write about a mistake they made and what they learned from it. Some of the contributors rose to the prompt put to them by Grodin. They dug back into their past, bared their souls, reopened old wounds, and came up with something really meaningful and poignant. However, many of the contributors evaded Grodin's question, and not always artfully. Some of these dodgers wrote essays that were incredibly self-serving, such as Martin Sheen and Nancy Grace. Some wrote essays that were about near mistakes instead of actual mistakes. Some did not write much of anything at all. This was my main complaint about the book -- there were quite a few essays that did not serve the purpose of the book for one reason or another.

I was surprised by two things about this book. First off, I expected it to be funny. Grodin wrote the preface and contributed one essay, neither of which were even slightly humorous. That was unexpected. Paul Newman saying that he has learned nothing from his mistakes was pretty funny, and there were a few other amusing essays. But for the most part, the book was not funny. It wasn't meant to be.

The second surprise came from Rosie O'Donnell, who turned in my favorite essay of the book, which is weird because I really don't like Rosie. I find her incredibly annoying and grating. For this reason, I reread her essay a few days after I finished the book, just to make sure that is wasn't some weird state of mind that affected my opinion of the essay. If that was the case, then the weird state of mind must have been a lingering one, because I liked the essay just as much the second time.

This book has some interesting insights and truly offers some good advice. It is too bad that it's hampered by so many lackluster essays.


Amanda said...

I dunno - it's hard to expect anything from the man who brought us Beethoven.

Jason Gignac said...

Yes, Amanda, Charles Grodin's essay was subtitled "Never Play a Role in Which You are Upstaged by a St. Bernard."

Nihil Novum said...

How can you hate a film with a main character named Rice?

Carlton said...

Beethoven is a good movie.