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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Povey, Jeff: The Serial Killers Club | Main | Caldwell, Laura: The Good Liar »

James, Emmett: Admit One

  

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Fizzypop © 2007, 197 pages
4 stars

Emmett James was born in 1972 in South London, where he grew up watching a lot of movies with his family at the local theater. He was seduced by the cinema, eventually studied acting, and moved to Hollywood in the early 90's to try to make it as an actor. He did make it, finally, becoming a successful working actor if not a household name, most significantly landing a small part in the biggest movie of all time, Titanic. James tells the story of his life in Admit One in chapters that are named after and loosely organized around movies--films that influenced him during the period described or whose plots mirrored his own experiences, or films he appeared in. But while the pictures he selects for each chapter heading provide a framework for James's book, it's not really about the movies.

[INSET TEXT: He's also due for a whomping from Steven Seagal, whom he sucker punches in an open letter at the beginning of the book.] Nor is Admit One, as the above summary might suggest, an insipid story about a boy who pursued and finally achieved his dream. The author is too acerbic to have written such a book. Here he is early on, for example, describing Croydon, the borough of London in which he grew up:

"The streets were lined with filth, the people were bitter and miserable and a fantastic night out meant a large kebab rather than the regular size, which of course went hand-in-hand proportionally with the amount you would subsequently vomit later that evening."

And again:

"Unfortunately, it was that type of town, inhabited by those types of people, living that type of crap life."

James's familial relationships meet with similar criticisms. His mother had a "permanent melancholy demeanor." His maternal grandparents were an overbearing couple whose home "was always rich with the smell of old people," a smell that "left a thick, pungent coating in the fibers of your clothes.... They were," he says, "much less benign in the days of my mother's childhood." Of his brother he writes:

"My older brother was a weaselly boy named Cymon (pronounced Simon, just spelled wanky to give him some added torment in school), and for as long as memory serves we have loathed one another."

It's unfortunate that the author's experiences weren't more positive--though this is not the sort of book that leaves you feeling sorry for him. On the other hand, it's quite refreshing to see such candor on the page.

Admit One is divided into two parts. The first concerns the author's childhood in England. It has universal appeal but will probably be enjoyed particularly by readers who grew up around the same time, and who will remember BMX bikes and Star Wars tie-in merchandise as fondly as does the author. In the second half James moves to America to make his way in Hollywood. This part of the book is less personal, yet it's interesting for its depiction of the life of a struggling actor. Also fascinating is the behind-the-scenes story of his work on Titanic: whatever you're thinking that might entail, you're wrong.

Coming away from the book I'm not entirely sure that I like the author. But that's a testament to his honesty. He's not only not afraid to look stupid, but he reveals some quite unflattering truths about himself--from an ill-conceived instance of, well, something approaching stalking (in tights!), to his willingness to participate in activities both legally and morally sketchy. (He's also due for a whomping from Steven Seagal, whom he sucker punches in an open letter at the beginning of the book.)

If nothing else, James is by no means a run-of-the-mill guy. Having been given this glimpse into his history and character, it will be interesting to watch his career unfold on screen.

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Comments

1.

i read this book and thought it was great. the one thing that your review, however thorough and accurate it is, left out was the wonderful sense of humor that Emmett has about everything. i can just hear a dry, witty, self-deprecating english accent in my head when i'm reading, and i laughed out loud more than a few times while i was reading. whatever adventures/predictaments the author gets into, he always resolves with either humor or self-reflection, which i think are two great coping mechanisms, especially in a memoir. it's a great, easy read for anyone liking film, reminiscing about their childhood, or just looking for an entertaining story of someone following his dreams.

2.

Ironically I could definitely see this book becoming a film.

3.

Sarah: Actually, I think you might be right.

Daria: You're right: he's funny and charmingly self-deprecating. I laughed aloud a couple times at least, certainly during the story of the taxi ride--which was very well told, in addition to being funny.

4.

I hear so much about people having to be sympathetic to appeal to the reader that it is really refreshing to find someone who isn't. I, for one, enjoy reading about someone who tells it all, warts and all - after all we all have a few - and it is reassuring to be reminded we are not alone.

5.

Hi, Clare. I agree. Although, hmmm. I don't think I'd say he isn't sympathetic. He's charming, but he also paints himself as a bit of a con artist. So, I guess it's not correct to say that I don't *like* him, but...hmmm...one doesn't come away thinking he's the finest human to have walked the planet. But then, that would be boring, wouldn't it? And who is all that wonderful in real life anyway? I do admire his honesty. It makes him an interesting character, and not what you'd expect. Or not what I was expecting, at least.

Hey, Emmett, if you're reading this, I hope you're having a laugh!

6.

Non-sympathetic narrators intrigue me. For example, Lionel Shriver does not manage to make her main characters sympathetic, even though I suspect they're supposed to be at least somewhat sympathetic. I've come to the conclusion that it's Shriver herself I dislike, because her characters do seem to have the same negative qualities, but oh, that writing! It gets me every time.

This sounds different, though. I mean, you KNOW the narrator is the author himself. You don't wonder, hmm, is this guy sort of a jerk because the author can't help but let his own jerkiness show through? And he doesn't really sound like a jerk, just like someone who isn't trying to show himself through rose-colored glasses.

7.

Your last sentence is an apt statement of the case, Dew.

God, I'm ignorant: I thought Lionel Shriver was a man. I see from Answers.com that "She changed her name at the age of 15 from Margaret Ann to Lionel because she liked the sound of it." Well, if you run around doing things like that, you're apt to be mistaken as a man. Not my fault, Lionel!

8.

Sounds like quite the entertaining read! I like that he doesn't go for the pity-party take on his past, choosing instead to mine it for humor.

9.

Emmett's theory is that the key to experiencing film is context, i.e. 'the environment, mood, personal history and circumstances in which a person sees a film'. I absolutely agree. Context, in that sense, is crucial to our appreciation of any art form. As I have remarked elsewhere, a joke told in German may be a very good joke, but if you don't speak German it don't actually mean very much.

It is a clever device, imho, to link an autobiographical memoir (is that a tautology?) to a series of films, and I think it works very well.

10.

Hey, Grumpy! Thanks for stopping by.

When I read that passage of his that you quote my thought was that it would be a good idea to do the same for books--because it is a good vehicle for a memoir. But I figured it's probably already been done. Perhaps Sara Nelson's So Many Books, So Little Time verges on being such a thing--though not quite, as it's books she's reading currently, and specifically for the book she's writing, as I remember.




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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