Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck [Book]

Hemingway's Girl by Erika RobuckIn Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match…and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation…even as the reliable Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths…and the possibility of losing everything she loves


So, I was basically duped into reading this book.  My wonderful wife was helping me with the process of borrowing digital e-books from our hometown local library on this little thing called the Internet, and she loaded a few suggestions for me.  There was yet another Palahniuk book I had yet to indulge in (review coming soon), A book that inspired a Jennifer Lawrence movie that is about killing kids, but not as a national sport, and then there was Hemingway’s Girl.  I could tell right away she was trying to tell me something.  The conversation went a little like this:

“It’s about Heminway.  You Love Hemingway.”

“Yeah, but it’s called Hemingway’s Girl.  Sounds like a chick book.”

“Well, you did just read The Help.”

“That’s different.”

“Well, it featured primarily women, and was probably in every woman’s book club a few years ago.”

Well shit.  I couldn’t fight this fact.  So that was when I decided that generalizations and categories do not matter, and if it is a good story, it is a just a good story, no matter who primarily reads it.  Also I realized I was just wrapping up Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist, which was yet another woman empowerment themed novel, which I enjoyed at least a little bit.  So, I said to hell with it.  Yes, this might turn in to a romance novel, but at least it will be yet another collection of fictionalized encounters with one of the greatest writers of all time, and that has to be something worthy of a bit of one’s time, right?

And I dare say, it was definitely worth the time.  As one would expect, Hemingway was indeed not the focus of the book, rather than a very important character who, much like in his real life, could turn from antagonist to protagonist with one simple paragraph, or at least from one chapter to the next.  The focus on the story is based around the ultimate tomboy and family provider Mariella, who finally “makes it big” as a housekeeper for the hotshot writer and his snooty wife during Depression era Key West.  And of course, she falls in love with Hemingway, but not in a manner that you would expect.  As a straight male, even I could understand that Ole Papa had a charm that had to have been undeniably attractive.  For fucks sake, the man could dribble out beautiful poetry in yellow lettering in the snows of Idaho after draining a bottle of the Key’s finest rum better than almost anyone!  And after that, he would challenge you to a boxing match, beat you at your best, and then put his arm around you whilst placing a fine Cuban cigar in your mouth.  He was, as I have previously mentioned, a fine cocksman.  But I digress.

Our heroine Mariella eventually falls in love with another man who should have been the sort of brute that Key West had been accustomed to seeing in the post Great War era.  Soldiers and other service members still affected from the shit they had seen in France, long before we realized what Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was, who revel in life’s wildest adventures of boozing, fighting, fucking, and building highways for the man.  But, her soon to be new beau was quite different.  While he managed to earn some extra wages by beating the shit out of others in the boxing ring, he would prove to be the kind hearted and genuinely a wonderful person, and, yes in a womanly fashioned, I eventually became a member of “Team Gavin”, if I were to move into teenage girl references of today.

Photo by Castch Photography.

Photo by Castch Photography.

This is what really got to me, and made me realize that I was truly becoming engage with this story for all the wrong reasons.  I was supposed to be rooting for Ernest!  I should have assumed that all I wanted was for Mariella to fall in love with Hemingway, eventually sleep with him, and feel damned grateful for the opportunity.  But alas, this story became so much more.  It is a story of love of course, but it is also highlighted in the idealism of friendship, and how we are all the same deep inside despite such minute matters as wealth or poverty.  The ability to care for one another in non sexual, non threatening ways is one of our finest human attributes that his not hardly embraced enough in this day and age.

Of course, in my now sick ways, I attributed Hemingway’s Girl, although a work of fiction, to be just another long winded example of how amazing Ernest Hemingway truly was.  I can’t help it.  I am quite the fanboy for this man who offed himself before my parent’s were even alive.  I found this book to be a prime example of how (probably) humble Hemingway could be as well as how attractive and brilliant his work was.  Of course as I mentioned previously, I wanted him to lose this round.  I wanted Gavin and Mariella to see their love flourish and become something beautiful.  And that is where I realize that I actually appreciated the wonderful prose and story telling of Erika Robuck.  Even with a handicap of having one of America’s greatest heroes as  main character, she still managed to pull of the impossible feat of writing a spectacular story without, even though it had, a well padded crutch to lean on.

In short, this is a great story, and is not primarily a romance novel.  Although I will admit that most romance novelists would probably make this claim, but I will it up to you to read Hemingway’s Girl and let me know what you think.  I just think it is a beautiful story, told beautifully as well, and as an added bonus, features a fictionalized version of one of the greatest writers of all time.  What more could you want?

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #7.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

Jonathan Lynn [Interview]

Jonathan Lynn1A good laugh can make you feel the best you ever could.  Comedy, especially in the world of film, can be such a delightful escape from the horribly dramatized visions of life and horror that we encounter each day, at times.  But of course, as one genius filmmaker might say (Spoiler Alert, it’s this guy we are speaking with today), “Comedy is merely an ironic view of tragedy”.  Which I find to be absolutely true.  And when a brilliant filmmaker is garnered with the task of visually stimulating the world with some wonderful laughs and a heartwarming look at the world around us, only wonderful things can come.

And Jonathan Lynn is not only an example, he is a master of his craft.  His films have been making us laugh for decades.  And they have proven to be the catalyst for some of our favorite comedic actors performing their finest roles in their careers.  Folks like Joe Pesci, Eddie Murphy, Jeff Daniels, Steve Martin, Matthew Perry, Bruce Willis, (just to name a few) have shown their brightest under the direction of this wonderful filmmaker, the illustrious Mr. Lynn.  But, there is so much more to this wonderful creator of comedy for him to be proud of.  And we wanted to talk to him about it!  Therefore we are eternally grateful that Jonathan agreed to share a few words with us here at Trainwreck’d Society.  So, like a couple of nuns on the run (all pun intended) here we go!

You work primarily in the world of comedy.  What initially drew you to the world of comedy?  What keeps you motivated to work in the comedy world?

I see the funny side of things. Comedy is merely an ironic view of tragedy. I work primarily in comedy because producers are unimaginative and I have become type-cast. No one ever offers me a drama. In the past I directed plays by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, not to mention Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, plays that would not be categorized as comedies.

I wish those days would return. Comedy is so much harder.  What keeps me motivated to work in the world of comedy is that I can get employment there.

Besides your directing and writing, you are also an accomplished actor. Tell us if you would, of all the crafts you have mastered, which do you prefer the most?  If you were only able to choose one to work in, what would it be?  

I like them all. They are all different aspects of the same craft: storytelling. If I had to choose one I think it would be writing because it is the only truly originally creative thing I do. Acting and directing are interpretative arts. This is not true if the director is the writer of the film or play, of course, and the writer/director combination would be my first choice.  Billy Wilder always thought of himself as a writer first, and he directed and produced in order to protect his scripts.

What is set life like when shooting comedies?  Is the atmosphere usually as fun as your films seem to come out to be?

No, not necessarily. Shooting comedy is a serious and precise business. The more time you have, the more the set can be relaxed, but nowadays indie films have to be shot on such tight schedules that I am totally focused on the work. I love it, though, when others having fun and I hope they do.

Jonathan Lynn2Were you at all surprised by the immense success that your 1992 blockbuster and still legendary film My Cousin Vinny became?

Yes. Totally.

When we delivered the film to Fox it scored sensationally well in its first test screening but it wasn’t until that moment that Fox realized it could be a real hit if they could only figure out how to sell it. They had no idea how to go about it. Apparently, they had given it no prior thought. Joe Pesci was well-known but not a star. Marisa Tomei was virtually unknown. It was hard to make a good trailer because the humor didn’t depend on gag lines but on the cumulative situation. Even the one-sheet was a problem. They tried to change the title but the film-makers fought them on that. There were months of discussion about everything: the one-sheet, the log-line, you name it, while the release was delayed. The head of marketing was replaced. Finally, they concluded that the only way to sell the film was to show the film, so about 900 free screenings were set up, all over the country. Audiences were persuaded to come see it  and the plan worked: the word of mouth was excellent and a buzz started, good enough to get us a reasonable opening weekend.

I have come to learn that you were worked with Brian Cox on the stage direction of Macbeth….and then did a special performance for Indira Ghandi, which sounds incredible.  How did this performance come about, and how was this experience for you? 

I was the Artistic Director of the Cambridge Theatre Company. It was a touring company that played all over the UK although it was based at the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. The production was invited to tour India by the British Council, which is funded by the Foreign Office to take British arts all over the world. It was a great honour.

When you are looking at projects to work on, what is the most important factor you are looking for before even considering the project?

Does it make me laugh or cry when I read it? Is there something truly original about the story or characters?  Is the story unpredictable?  Can I cast it well enough? Will anyone ever finance it?  The answers to these questions need to be Yes.

What do you find to be most difficult about directing films based on other people’s scripts?

That depends on the script and the writer.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming project you wrote, The Pre-Nup?

No. Not until it starts up.

When you look back on your career spanning over 6 decades, what are you most proud of?  And is there anything you have yet to accomplish that you hope to in the future?

I’m proud that some of my films remain really popular, many years after they were made. I’m proud that my series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister changed the way that the British public view government, and that the character Sir Humphrey has entered the language as short-hand for senior civil servant.

There is a lot more that I hope to accomplish. I have several screenplays ready to make. I have a new play to stage. I have never directed an opera and I would love to do that. I have new two books, one fiction, one non-fiction, that I look forward to publishing. I am very busy.

Jonathan Lynn3And in those 6 decades, what are some of the most substaintle changes you have noticed in the art of filmmaking?  What remains the same?

There are just too many to list. There’s a book to be written about that.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The Republican Party.

The Valery Trails: Buffalo Speedway [Album]

The Valery Trails - Buffalo Speedway - Album ArtThe Valery Trails is a band that has been several years in the making.  As they sometimes seem to do, consequences arrive that tend to skew the seemingly definite plans we make.  Sometimes we never return to the passion, and eventually die off with nothing to show for it.  Well, thankfully enough brothers Andrew and Sean Bower never forgot about the magic they created oh so many years ago in one format or another, and we are still blessed with the beautiful sounds of The Valery Trails, and are fortunate enough to hear them even more on their sophomore release Buffalo Speedway.

The Bower brothers, joined by the immaculate drummer Dan McNaulty, create energetic yet calming alternative rock songs that are extremely reminiscent of the days when college radio reigned supreme, and the term “alternative” meant something, anything at all.  Buffalo Speedway is an exceptional collection of proof of just how talented and important The Valery Trails are.  The sound is not too extreme, but definitely not without sass and grind.  It is just loud enough to be exciting, but calm enough to not leave you in disarray after a complete listen.  It is an album that just leaves you feeling good all over.

If you enjoy solid guitar work, unique vocals, and wonderfully produced rock and roll songs, there is absolutely no excuse for you to not check out The Valery Trails and their sophomore release Buffalo Speedway.  If you can appreciate melodies, harmonies, and over calming sensations, this is the album you are supposed to be listening to right this second.  You owe it to yourself to throw this band’s sound into your life.

Buffalo Speedway will be available on April 29th, 2014.  Check out the band’s website for more information, and to hear a few tracks from the album.

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk [Book]

Invisible Monsters by Chuck PalahniukOne more time, please. This time with a little less face.

Invisible Monsters initially unnamed narrator was once a beautiful fashion model. But only to draw the attention of her parents away from her brother, Shane. The narrator has it all until the fateful day of the accident where the bottom half of her face gets completely blown off leaving her with nothing more than top teeth and a tongue that hangs out of the gaping wound.

Now unable to speak and constantly wiping drool from her mouth, the narrator still gets attention, but only because she is a hideous monster. So here comes Brandy Alexander, the queen of overly coifed hair and heavily painted face. Only one surgery away from being a “real” woman, Brandy takes the narrator under her awkwardly large wing and equips her with the things she needs to be beautiful again. At least as beautiful as she can be with only half a face.

When Brandy isn’t giving our narrator hats with face veils, new clothes, “speech” lessons, and completely new identities, she is finding houses for sale. Not for purchase, but for prescription drugs to steal.

There are drugs, wounds, blood, fire, and new identities. Palahniuk delivers a dose of jilted beauty queens, messed up transsexuals, and twists on top of twists on top of twists. Invisible Monsters will only leave you wanting. Wanting what, I’m not sure. But you’ll want something.


After my less than stellar experience with one of Chuck’s latest books, Damned (check out review #3 of our 100 books in 2014), I felt it was a perfect time to revisit some of his older works.  There are only a few Palahniuk books I have not dove in to over the years, the most well known I have yet to read is his classic Fight Club, but I’m thinking I may get to that one this year at some point.  Another novel was Invisible Monsters.  I just have to say…THIS is what I have come to expect from one of he finest writers of this day and age!  It is filled to the brim with the wit, poignancy, and down right fits of distrubia that I have come to expect from this wonderfully creative human being.  Of course, this book is now 15 years old, and has also been the subject of a “remixed” version, released in 2012, which I have not read either.  But, this is classic Palahniuk.  His tales of some just downright terrible people doing terrible things, all the while making you fall in love with them, are what makes good ole Chuck just so unique and one of the greatest.  He is the F. Scott Fitzgerald of the “that’s just wrong” variety.  Although I would argue that Chuck would win a battle rap type fashion if his work were butted right up against Fitzgerald in contest when it comes to word use and character development.  Yes, I am that serious about this cat’s work.

What struck me to be my greatest fascination with this novel was a quality that appears in just about every piece of work the man has ever done.  There is always a somewhat relevant bit of phrasing that occurs in his work.  In Fight Club, the film and I am told in the book as well, you have the “I am Jack’s ….” where he would enter a different trouble or personal description.  Damned started each chapter with “Are you there Satan?  It’s me Madison”.  And in Invisible Monsters, the word “Flash” is of great importance”  Give me ____.  Flash! Give me ____.  Flash!”.  I can’t truly explain what this does for me, but dammit I love it.  Palahniuk has developed a style of writing that is worthy of praise from every reader who lies eyes on his pages, and every writer out there who thinks they are even the least bit original.  And it is character traits like this that make him one of the greatest of all time.

I’ve had many conversations with avid Palahniuk readers about which of his works they like best.  Many people say Fight Club, as it is apparently a brilliant novel.  Several people claim that Fight Club is the ideal collection of film and book.  Both are brilliant, and slightly different, meaning you can enjoy both pieces of art and avoid the pretentious statements like “the book was better” or “I’ll just watch the movie”.  I can’t stand that.  And if you do such a thing, I suggest you stop reading this right now, and go fix yourself a big heaping shit sandwich and enjoy every last drop.  Anyway, back on track here:  I think it is impossible to truly make a claim as to what my favorite work of Palahniuk may be.  And maybe that is what makes him so great.  If it is a conversation I wish to keep short, I usually just say Tell-All or Rant, which always seem to pop in to my mind.  If it is somebody I want to talk to, I make the claim that it is impossible for a couple of reasons.  (1) I have yet to read all of his books, at this time of writing I believe I have yet to read 4 of them and (2) Each piece of work is so brilliant in its own way and I would simply have to choose portions and scenes and characters from each book that would be my “favorite”.  And Invisible Monsters definitely adds to the beautiful confusion.  I discovered a few new favorites about Palahniuk, and thoroughly enjoyed yet another amazing story from an amazing writer.

Foto von Chuck PalahniukI must admit that there is much bias in my readings of Palahniuk.  You see, I’m not one to take too much pride in where I am “from”.  I quote the word “from” because I don’t think I am really “from” anywhere.  But, I spent a combine number of years in the Pacific Northwest more than anywhere else, albeit at different stages of my life.  But I do have a fanboy love affair with the city of Portland, Oregon.  I absolutely adore that damn place, and everything it has to offer.  And it is a city that good old Chuck still calls home, which makes perfect sense if you know his work and anything about the city of Portland.  In fact, I recommend you read Palahniuk’s book Fugitive and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon.  He spells out quite nicely why he loves this town.  Chuck Palahniuk is to Portland what Woody Allen is to Manhattan.  Of course, they also have the wonderful Gus Van Sant wandering around, but I have a feeling Chuck may get recognized more.  He is a fixture in the community, and the locals can not help but admire his work, but don’t get star crazed when they see him having dinner with his family, or strolling through a neighborhood staring at nothing.  He just walks among so many other great writers and musicians and tattoo artists and artisan bread makers just like everyone else in one of the weirdest cities in America.  I only bring this up to admit my bias for the man because of where he calls home.  But luckily, the man is a world-renowned brilliant writer, and my bias means nothing.  It’s just another reason I have to continue the proverbial ass kissing of this brilliant fascinating man.

In the end, I may not have enjoyed Damned recently, but as the old saying goes, “Sex is like pizza, even if it’s bad it’s still pretty good”.  I feel the same for sex as I do for Chuck’s work.  As well as pizza.  “Chuck Palahniuk’s writing is a glorious 12″ pan of brilliant pizza sex literature.”  End quote.

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #6.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell [Book]

The Other Typist by Suzanne RindellRose Baker seals men’s fates.

With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in a New York City Police Department precinct on the lower east side, Rose is like a high priestess.  Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their transgressions, and Rose records their crimes.   It is 1923, and while she may hear every detail about shootings, knifings, and murders, as soon as she leaves the interrogation room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for filing and making coffee.

It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies.  But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood.

When glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world.  And her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.



I am still sort of lost for words when trying to describe what I think of this novel.  Not entirely in the sense of admiration and a shock and awe feeling, but in a sense of disappointment, or even neutrality for that matter.  I guess I should assume that since I have mostly good things to say about this book, and nothing really bad to say, that I liked it.  And yes, I did quite enjoyed the storyline, the characters, and the delightful confusion that consistently evolved throughout the reading.  So, why am I so hesitant to state that I downright loved this book?  I shall explain.

The Other Typist is the first novel from Suzanne Rindell the world has known.  It is her freshman effort to say, which works along ironically enough she is doctoral student in American modernist literature at Rice University at the moment (or at least when she wrote this book).  And this may be one reason why I am hesitant to spill out praise and declare triumph for this up and coming novelist.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this woman has a brilliant gift for storytelling that I am very excited to follow along with over the coming years upon years of work she is obviously going to produce as she has had her first novel published by Penguin, no small feet to say the least.  But, is it the fact that I am so impressed by the idea of Rindell scoring a huge book deal such as this at such an early stage in her life/career that makes me feel as though I am utterly impressed with the novel?  I fear it is an honest thought to consider.

Another reason why I am hesitant to exclaim, “Read this fucking book now or I shall wish cancer upon you and all those you love” is based upon so much of the confusion that I had whilst reading the book itself.  I hadn’t considered this book to be a real “mystery” novel when I first found it, and definitely not in the beginnings of the reading.  It seemed so straight forward.  I wasn’t expecting so many things that eventually happened.  And as a not-so-avid reader of mystery novels, I was shocked.  So many things truly came out of nowhere.  Yet, they were so conveniently placed that is was undeniably brilliant in how Rindell worked things to her advantage.  By the time Rose started speaking about her dealings with the psychiatrist that was never mention in previous text, I was fumbling my thoughts like a madman.  So much so, that by the time all was truly revealed in the final pages, I never became fully comfortable with what the hell was actually happening to this main character who I had managed to disgust, love, disgust some more, and eventually fall in love with and hope for the best right around the time when hope was useless and of ill-ripute.  And in hindsight, I think this was actually pretty awesome, to put it mildly and sophomoric.  Anytime a writer can truly confuse the shit out of me at any given time, that should truly be a sign of true talent and obvious ability.  And there is no doubt in my mind that Suzanne Rindell will be one of the finest writers of this era.  Yet, I am still skeptical as to why I may think this.  There is still one more area that I must cover before I can truly convey my truest emotions.

Suzanne RindellI shall put it bluntly:  I felt like a masogenist asshole when I first started reading this book.  Please let me explain.  There was just something about the way that the main character, Rose, would describe her new friend and the book’s temptress Odalie that was so strangely sexual.  Not erotic mind you, just sexual.  And perhaps this was intentional.  And this is where the masagenist feelings came in to play.  I actually picked out a descriptor from the novel to share with my wife to read, and was very relieved when she felt the same way.  Of course, my spouse does not behold the ability to speak for all women and what their descriptors of “sexual” may be, but she is the woman I see day in and day out, and is the overall expert on womanly things as far as I am concerned.  But alas, it was there.  And I wonder if this was intentional by Rindell.  I don’t fancy myself the most perspective male on earth, but I would like to imagine that the implementations that I have drawn out here are true.  And if they were true, I commend Suzanne for the valiant effort and thought she has put in to creating such brilliant descriptors given from one woman to another in such a brilliantly sexual, yet lacking perversion in anyway, sort of style.  But, if I am wrong, I feel as though I may need to revisit the words, and maybe talk to Rindell personally to try and grasp what I was thinking.  And with that, I may need to figure out just what the hell is wrong with me.  But, in my defense, I do have the sneaking suspicion that this book, while not written entirely for a female audience, it is certainly justifiable to imagine that at least 60 percent of folks who read The Other Typist are going to be the proud owner’s of lady parts.

Even with these hesitations explain to the best of my ability, I do have to say that I liked this book a lot.  Beyond the fact that it is a brilliantly written book by an newcomer who happens to have a vagina, it’s just a damn good story that was so damn fun to read.  The elements of deception, false loyalty, and interpreted superiority that Rindell came up with where absolutely fascinating.  Seriously, even up to the Epilogue, I was wondering if I had just completed a book from the next Palahniuk when I thought that I might have read the next Fight Club that featured suffering females from the 1920’s before I finished the book altogether.  I definitely can say with full confidence that this is a book with a story line that will not let anyone down who loves beautiful storytelling, a brilliant array of emotional text, and even a slight bit of mystery.  I am definitely excited to read what Rindell has to offer on her second go around, which will hopefully deplete my issue with reading “mystery” books, even if they aren’t deemed to be in such a genre outside of my screwed up head.  I would definitely recommend this brilliant novel to anybody who lives in their right mind, and enjoys wonderful storytelling.

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #5.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

Bob Clendenin [Interview]

Bob Clenendin


So, for avid readers, you will already know that Bob Clendenin will be the second brilliant character from the Hulu Original Series Quick Draw to appear here on Trainwreck’d Society.  We had the distinct pleasure of speaking with the lovely Alexia Dox, who portrays Pearl.  Well I will god damned if I’m not just a huge fan of this show, and desperately want to hear from more folks.  And what a wonderful addition Mr. Clendenin is.  I hate to pick favorites, but I will.  Bob’s portrayal of the kind hearted and sad faced mortician Vernon Shank is absolutely brilliant and without a doubt my favorite character on the show.

And along with being my favorite from the show, he was actually the only one on the show who I had known before the show debuted on Hulu last year.  I recognized, and you should as well, him from his regular showings on the sleeper comedy I enjoy so very much, Cougar Town, as well as constantly appearing in roles in television shows of several different varieties.  On a more personal level…..this cat was in Kazam!!  It wasn’t a large role mind you, but when I was 11 years old, there was nothing cooler than Shaq acting like a genie, and I watched that damn movie inside and out, wearing out my VHS tape beyond repair (right next to my copy of Jury Duty).  While I am sure Mr. Clendenin is more proud of just about every other bit of work he has done, this is a very memorable (I didn’t say “classic”) film for me.

So you can imagine how excited I am to have Bob Clendenin join the TWS family, and share a few words with us here.  We learn a bit more about Quick Draw, and just how amazing it is.  We learn about Cougar Town and more from one of the funniest men in the business today.  So enjoy!


So, you have a degree in Engineering of all things, but you decided to shift gears and move in to the world of acting.  What exactly sparked this change?

I felt, and Cornell certainly would have agreed, that the world would be a safer place if I were not building bridges. I have always been a bit of a clown and attention hog and it was around sophomore year when I was looking for a diversion from the Engineering curriculum that I auditioned for a campus production. Doing the play really energized me and I was drawn to all the extroverts and ‘artistic types’ in the theatre building. They were the antithesis of the engineers. Plus they threw great parties. I ended up finishing the engineering degree (someone needed to round out the bottom of the bell curve) but I decided to at least give this new passion a go and went into an MFA acting program immediately after.

Your involvement in the Hulu Original series Quick Draw is deifnitely a brilliant one.  What drew you in to the role as Vernon?

I’ve always been drawn to oddball characters and you can’t get much more oddball than the town’s undertaker. Because the show is improvised we have tremendous freedom to take our characters in all sorts of directions and I’ve had a wonderful time trying to flesh out this guy. And could there be a better name than “Vernon Shank”? It really says it all.

Alexia Dox & BobIs Quick Draw a very scripted show, or does it mirror the sort of style of improve we watched you do in 10 Items or Less?

John Lehr and Nancy Hower are the creative team behind both shows and I came to know and love them during 10 Items or Less. The shows are the same in that the narrative of each episode is written by them but there is no dialog. When we show up for a scene Nancy will give us the info we need to know and what needs to come out during the scene and then we’re let loose. Sometimes we take diversions that end up with real gold and sometimes we just get lost in the woods and she puts us back on track. We will repeat the scene several times and it will eventually take shape. Sometimes it can be frustrating and slightly frightening but it’s incredibly enjoyable. I also think that since 10 Items we’ve become much more efficient in the process. During that show we would be left with hours and hours of material that was very funny but completely unusable in telling a 22 minute story. With Quickdraw there is less wheel spinning.

What is the set life like on a show like Cougar Town?  Is there a lot of clowning around happening with such a hilarious cast of folks?

I adore that group. All incredibly funny people who genuinely like each other. Courteney is one of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with/for and all cast and crew just love going to work. We all need to work together to keep tight reins on Ian Gomez and if we don’t stroke Josh Hopkins ego regularly he gets really pouty. Other than that it’s a dream job. (Additional note from Bob – “I hope it’s clear here that I’m teasing my two dear friends. If not, feel free to delete”.  I hope you fine readers were smart enough to get that.)

Can you tell us a bit about Circle X Theatre Company?  How did it come to light, and what makes it special to you?

Circle X is essentially a child from a previous marriage. I was one of six founders who were all discouraged by some of the LA waiver theatre we were seeing and auditioning for. We wanted to get away from the showcase nature and back to the kinds of plays we were doing in grad school. Like most waiver theatres, we had no money but our productions were incredibly inventive. We did almost exclusively new plays from brilliant new play-writes and found extraordinary designers. Being part of that is still one of my proudest achievements. I still sit on their Board of Directors and try to participate in builds etc but I’m not nearly as involved as I would like.

An interesting side note is how we came by the name. If you visit the Ellis Island museum you will see they had a procedure for classifying potential immigrants. If someone had TB or some physical illness they would get an X on their lapel. If they were deemed deranged or unsuitable for society they got an X with a circle around it and generally sent back. We identified with this group.

What is the most embarassing moment you have experienced on set thus far in your career?

Don’t know if this counts, but I once had an audition for a sketch type show where the producers wanted actors to either come in with various characters or just tell an amusing story. I attempted the latter and told an anecdote about working on Star Trek: Voyager as an alien and how it related to a failed masturbation attempt in full Alien prosthetics. The story  completely flatlined. They were horrified. I could tell halfway through that I was in trouble but there was no turning back. Just a miserable time.

What else does the future hold for you?  Any projects in the work you can tell us about?

After Quick Draw I’ll just go back to the audition circuit and hope for the best. The thing I’m most excited about is coaching my son’s little league team which starts in a few weeks. Hope they don’t eat me alive.

Bob Clendenin 2What was the last thing that made you smile?

The macadamia nut cookie that disappeared about two sentences ago.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett [Book]

The Help by Kathryn StockettTwenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women – mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends – view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.


My thoughts:

WARNING: DO NOT TAKE THIS BOOK TOO DAMN SERIOUS!  I know this is a harsh way to start a review for a book that I actually enjoyed quite a bit, but I just had to make that clear.  Take this wonderfully told story exactly for what it is: a heart warming tale that so many of us can hardly understand.  When I say not to take this book so serious, I simply mean to not use this book as a definitive definition of the 1960’s and what it was like to be black and/or a servant to the white masses during this time.  I mean this not to discredit the factual obligations Stockett may have had whilst making this novel, but to assure you fine readers that the The Help is not a prime example for the sketchy race relations during this time.  If you are looking to do some research on the era or the confrontations, I suggest non-fiction as a route to learn more about just how shitty this times were for so many people.

The Help is a brilliant novel though in its own way.  Sure it probably isn’t the best written piece of fiction I have ever read, it is actually quite simple which is part of its charm.  What makes this book so brilliant is it’s unnerving and often uncomfortable depiction of human interaction in a time when people where “misinformed” or “fucking racist”.  Stockett’s depiction of what it means to be a decent person in any time or era is brilliant.  She’s no Harper Lee, but she seems to get the concept, probably far better than some silly white boy born in the 80’s in the Northwest, about as far away from Mississippi as you can get.  The book is just edgy enough to not lose its whimsical charm, but can still include a chocolate pie made of human shit.  The harsh realities of being a black woman working for a white family is definitely conveyed quite directly, although half way through the book I became unsettled by how matter-of-factly I began with thinking “that’s just the way it was”, which I would never normally even consider as an excuse for the crap that ensued during this time.

The book has its Forrest Gump moments, as I like to call them, probably to emphasis the time period even though it was probably unnecessary.  The assassinations of that time period are historically known right down to your average American 2nd grader.  It also has several sided story plots that I felt could have been completely disregarded, as well as others that could have used some emphasis.  For example, I did not give one chocolate pie filled with shit about Skeeter’s relationship with the Senator’s son.  I felt that so much time was wasted on this subject, and the vilification of its merit was lost to me, while the character if Celia didn’t seem to receive the proper merit I would have liked to have read.  Her importance to the story hit so damn hard at first, but was quickly completed, only to be eventually omitted from the rest of the story.  And then there was the ending.  I was surprised by how much I didn’t like the ending.

Kathryn StockettThe book ends with the reader having the chance to decide for themselves what actually happens to the characters.  This is something I usually enjoy and often times find in some of my favorite works of literature.  Problem is: this isn’t the kind of book in which the reader should complete and then decide anything for themselves.  It makes sense if a book like The Sun Also Rises ends with a shrine of mystery even though so much has occurred, but Stockett is not Hemingway.  The Help is a book that should have ended much like a romantic comedy film in the 90’s would have.  It should have been happy!  Instead, it ends with promises of a new tomorrow, better days, yet littered with spouse abuse, unemployment, and the only one with a truly positive outlook is the self-hating, self-righteous white woman.  This would actually be a beautiful ending, had the story been a bit darker and less light-hearted.  But, what made me the most angry about the end was the fact that the book’s villain was hardly punished at all for her bitchy ways (save for a terrible taste in her mouth).  Yes, this book had an ending that would have been perfect in so many other settings, just not this one.

As much as I have complained about this book, specifically the ending, I still consider this a wonderful novel.  As I stated before, it really isn’t something to be taken too seriously.  This is strange to say considering the very serious subject matter.  And I have yet to watch the critically acclaimed film that it became, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I am going to like the dramatization of this film much better than the book.  No matter, this can not take away the merit of this book that was truly a delightful read for the most part.  At the very least, this book could serve as a very serious conversation starter, and could possibly lead a reader to reading more powerful books on the issues in which it somewhat treats seriously.

In conclusion, it’s no Roots, but it will do.

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #4.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!