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Books by the Blogger:

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:

  

« Win a book for BAFAB! | Main | Barclay, Linwood: No Time For Goodbye »

Martin, Steve: Born Standing Up

  

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Scribner © 2007, 207 pages
4 stars

In his autobiography Born Standing Up, Steve Martin sets out to explain, as he puts it, "why I did stand-up and why I walked away." The result is a history of his career, from selling guidebooks at Disneyland when he was ten through his decade and a half as a struggling magician turned comic to, finally, the years of meteoric success on which he abruptly turned his back in 1981. Martin explains his philosophy of comedy and describes the development of his act, profiling the various colleagues and acquaintances who influenced him along the way. In one chapter he provides what amounts to a thumbnail history of comedy in 1960s America.

[INSET TEXT: In a passage that must have been difficult to write he describes the incident which led him to resolve, at roughly age nine, that thenceforth "only the most formal relationship would exist between my father and me...."] The chapters focusing on Martin's career, if the raison d’être for the book, are less interesting than those in which the author unpacks his less than idyllic home life as a child. In a passage that must have been difficult to write he describes the incident which led him to resolve, at roughly age nine, that thenceforth "only the most formal relationship would exist between my father and me...." This too, Martin suggests, was a sort of preparation for his career:

"I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know that I am qualified to be a comedian."

Most of Martin's book has to do with his hungrier years. But these led eventually to a four-year period during which he was at the pinnacle of success, playing to audiences of thirty and forty thousand. As he describes it, his act in fact suffered because of the size of the crowds:

"The act was shifting into automatic. The choreography was in place, and all I had to do was fulfill it. I was performing a litany of immediate old favorites, and the laughs, rather than being the result of spontaneous combustion, now seemed to roll in like waves created far out at sea."

Martin's popularity led to  his increased isolation and depression.

"Though the audiences continued to grow, I experienced a concomitant depression caused by exhaustion, isolation, and creative ennui. As I was too famous to go outdoors without a discomforting hoopla, my romantic interludes ceased because I no longer had normal access to civilized life. The hour and a half I spent performing was still fun, but there were no band members, no others onstage, and after the show, I took a solitary ride back to the hotel, where I was speedily escorted by security across the lobby. A key went in a door, and boom: the blunt interior of a hotel room. Nowhere to look but inward."

Celebrity means that normal interaction is no longer possible. It's not hard at all to see why he walked away.

Born Standing Up is a quick read. There are occasional witty turns of phrase in the book, but it is not funny per se, and it in fact borders on being dry in Martin's recitations of the people and places that studded his early career. Martin's forays into his person life make for good reading, but one is left wishing the author had spilled a little more of himself on the page.

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Comments

1.

Great review, Debra. Steve Martin was one of my favourite comedians when I was growing up, and I can't wait to get hold of the audiobook, which he reads.

2.

That sounds like a good thing for me to read. I hate Steve Martin for a lot of his work in movies - it would be good for me to read something about his life and history that might leaven that resentment a little :)

3.

Thanks, Ian. Let me know what you think when you read/hear it.

Oakling: I wasn't aware Steve Martin could inspire *hatred*!

4.

This is why I've never had any urge to follow a path that would have ANY chance of celebrity. The idea of not being able to take a walk, go to the store, anything, without people recognizing you, photographing you, swarming you... well, it horrifies me. So I can certainly sympathize with his plight, and understand his walking away.

5.

I'm with you, Heather. I used to feel uncomfortable, when we lived in an apartment building, having to walk by the mailman and doorman every day on my way out. Inevitably there would be chatter, completely harmless, but sometimes I just wanted to leave anonymously!




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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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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.