Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Book Talk

Dona: Book talk time.  We had two book reviews recently.  Ruth covered Stan Saul's BECOMING RICHARD PRYOR and Isaiah covered Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey are the authors of  THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF ANIMATION: TRUE TOON TALES OF THE MOST ICONIC CHARACTERS, ARTISTS AND STYLES!   Isaiah, let me start with you and your review was "The Comic Book History of Animation: True Toon Tales of the Most Iconic Characters, Artists and Styles!"  You referred to the drawings.  Was this a visual book?

Isaiah: Yes and the fact that you have to ask makes it clear I wasn't clear enough.  They're covering the history of animated films and they've done it as a comic book.  

Dona: So an animated racy cartoon back in 1928? 

Isaiah: That was a shocker.  The year is not clear outside of the book.  It may be a year different.  But I looked it up and it was the case.  But I did change the title of that cartoon.  The book had a different title and I could not find it on Google so I went with the title that I could fine repeatedly.  

Dona: And the man just walks around poking his thing in.

Isaiah: Yep.  Ends up in a cactus tree at one point.  That's not in the book, that's what I found out while researching.

Dona: We always think we're the racy ones and that it was so quiet before we came along.  Clearly, that's not the case.  Ruth, you covered a biography, "BECOMING RICHARD PRYOR," and you liked it?

Ruth: I am torn.  I wish I hadn't read it.  

Dona: It made it harder for you to enjoy Richard Pryor?

Ruth: It did.  I don't care about his sleeping with whomever -- the book does note that he publicly stated he had slept with a man.  And not Marlon Brando, this was a male prostitute he grew up with and Richard spoke about it publicly at a charity event.  But Richard sleeping with someone -- even a married woman or man -- I have no negative judgements.  For me, the issue was the violent beatings of women.  It is really hard for me to resolve that.  Trust the art, not the artist, right?

Dona: Stan asked me to tell you he really liked what you wrote regarding the barriers that Richard faced in terms of casting.

Ruth: I honestly would not have thought about that were it not for Ava and C.I. tackling the subject.  But they really did open my eyes --

Dona: Stan's too.  He wanted me to link to their "TV: First Ladies and Martha Mitchell ."

Ruth: And they're right.  It is racism when they have a certain level of African-American male character -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, etc. -- and they refuse to cast an African-American in the role but instead cast a British actor.  They do not go out of their way to, for example, enlarge the scope of the characters that they will allow Samuel L. Jackson to play.  Richard Pryor became box office and deserves praise for that.  But they really did keep him as a type.  And Eddie Murphy followed -- a huge box office star -- and the studios catered to him because he was so huge but even so they only allowed him to stretch a little bit more than they did Richard.

Isaiah: I read the book, by the way, to see what bothered Ruth and it bothered me as well.  For example, Richard and his wife Shelley have Sammy Davis Jr. and his wife over.  Richard starts beating Shelley at the table, during dinner.  And the next day, Sammy and his wife send flowers about how that's not the Richard they know or something.  There is a lot of looking the other way, a lot of smoothing over and a lot of justifying.  And I am not trying to attack Sammy Davis Jr.  I don't know what I would have done, in 1960-whatever, if that had happened in front of me at a friend's home.  Today?  We know about spouse abuse.  Back then, I don't want to try to guess.  It was awkward and it was painful.  And, Ruth, it did harm the way I look at Richard Pryor.  I understand your reaction completely.

Dona: Ruth, you note that it's probably not a book for big fans of Richard Pryor.

Ruth: I don't feel it is.  I picked it up thinking I would enjoy it because I love Richard Pryor.  But I did not enjoy the book.  Well written and great for digging deep but I didn't plan on that.  I had a question for Isaiah.

Isaiah: Shoot.

Ruth: On your review, you were emphasizing the things covered in the book you read that were not so obvious, right?

Isaiah: Yes.  I could have written a ton about Walt Disney, for example, that we already know but what would the point be.  The racy film, for example, was completely new to me and that's why I included it in my review.

Dona: Isaiah, Ruth wants more book coverage -- even like what we did in 2020 where it was at least one book a week.  How do you feel about that?

Isaiah: I don't know about that much -- not sure I could do that much.  But I am glad that Ruth, Rebecca and Marcia continue to cover books.  

Dona: I am too. 

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