The first was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, recommended by my sister Sara. Not to be mistaken for the horrific name, popular movie, and Halloween theme it inspired, the book is actually about what it’s like to be human. Masterfully written by Shelley when she was only 20 (!), Frankenstein made my heartbreak and made me ponder humanity more than another other book recently (save for this, this, and this).
Due to a few slow pages and an ending that abruptly stops (like most classical literature), I award it four stars out of five.
The second I read in less than 48 hours. It’s called The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by actor Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell. About the making of The Room (aka “The Citizen Kane of bad movies”), this book made me laugh out loud, cringe, and cheer on numerous occasions. I admire Sestero for his candor, for seeing the good in the world, for sharing his story, and for shining the spotlight on the conflicted, inspiring, and likable man named Tommy Wiseau. “What a story, Mark!”
For its hilarity and heart, I award it four stars out of five and anxiously await the movie adaptation starring James Franco.
These are my favorite passages from each:
- In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation.
- We were soon joined by Elizabeth. Time had altered her since I last beheld her; it had endowed her with loveliness surpassing the beauty of her childish years. There was the same candour, the same vivacity, but it was allied to an expression more full of sensibility and intellect.
- I no longer see the world and its works as they before appeared to me. Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice that I read in books or heard from others as tales of ancient days or imaginary evils; at least they were remote and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s blood.
- Why does man boast of sensibilities superior to those apparent in the brute; it only renders them more necessary beings. If our impulses were confined to hunger, thirst, and desire, we might be nearly free; but now we are moved by every wind that blows and a chance word or scene that that word may convey to us.
- He raised her and smiled with such kindness and affection that I felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature; they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions.
- “These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?
- “Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock.
- Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.’
- But my chief delights were the sight of the flowers, the birds, and all the gay apparel of summer; when those deserted me, I turned with more attention towards the cottagers. Their happiness was not decreased by the absence of summer. They loved and sympathized with one another; and their joys, depending on each other, were not interrupted by the casualties that took place around them.
- Do not despair. To be friendless is indeed to be unfortunate, but the hearts of men, when unprejudiced by any obvious self-interest, are full of brotherly love and charity. Rely, therefore, on your hopes; and if these friends are good and amiable, do not despair.’
- “Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”
- The cup of life was poisoned forever, and although the sun shone upon me, as upon the happy and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me. Sometimes they were the expressive eyes of Henry, languishing in death, the dark orbs nearly covered by the lids and the long black lashes that fringed them; sometimes it was the watery, clouded eyes of the monster.
- Let us only cling closer to what remains and transfer our love for those whom we have lost to those who yet live.
- Did you not call this a glorious expedition? “And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror, because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited, because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome.
- “Wretch!” I said. “It is well that you come here to whine over the desolation that you have made. You throw a torch into a pile of buildings, and when they are consumed, you sit among the ruins and lament the fall.”
The Disaster Artist
- I didn’t go out for high school drama, for instance, because I was afraid of not being good. I persisted in reading about acting, though, and remember my stomach dropping when I learned that Jack Nicholson stumbled through 350 auditions before getting his first small part.
- He was terrible, reckless, and mesmerizing. What made him so confident? I was desperately curious to discover that. It wasn’t his acting, obviously, which was extraordinarily bad. He was simply magically uninhibited; the only person in our class—or any class I’d ever taken, for that matter—whom I actually looked forward to watching perform. The rest of us were toying with chemistry sets and he was lighting the lab on fire.
- When he managed to kick the ball into the goal, he said, “Touchdown!
- What on earth compelled this man to want to act? His money explained his condo, his Mercedes, his weekly acting-class commutes to Los Angeles, but nothing I’d seen or heard so far explained him. I was no longer rehearsing a scene; I was private investigating another human being.
- Is there some big studio behind him?” “Totally independent. It’s cinematic masturbation, basically.”
- He supposedly studied psychology at Laney College and had the relevant textbooks stacked up in his messy apartment, but whether he had actually read any of them, I have no idea. It’s worth pointing out that Peter’s psychologist wisdom to Johnny ranges from cliché (“People are people”) to obvious (“This is Lisa we’re talking about?”) to terrible (“If you love her, you should confront her”).
- “This prick Osama is the biggest asshole-motherfucker-piece-of-shit who ever lived. He think he can stop America. I’m sorry, Mr. Dickhead Osama, you don’t have chance. We are the best country in the world.” He then led the room in a chant of “USA, USA!”
- He defends America to his peers and teachers who tell him terrible lies about life in the place he loves. For this, T—— is beaten up, picked on, mocked for being a traitor: the scar under his eye derives from one of these valiant early fights. They call him Americanski, Johnny Americanski, as he walks home from school. He doesn’t have friends.
- When Tommy finally felt prepared to give the scene another go, he mentioned that it might be good to have some footballs being thrown around after Johnny makes his announcement—this on a roof, mind you. “No, no, no,” Sandy said instantly. “We’ll be here all night with that damn football. No more football!”
- Tommy didn’t know what he didn’t know about the dreams of others.
- In the love scene’s final shot, Johnny gets out of bed and walks bare-assed to the bathroom. Tommy thought long and hard about his decision to show his ass. “I need to do it,” he told me. “I have to show my ass or this movie won’t sell.”
- ‘Relationships never work. I don’t know why I waste time on it. Girls are so difficult. They spend long time in bathroom.’
- Tommy removed his sunglasses and glanced back at me. He had tears in his eyes. He smiled, nodded, and turned toward the screen. It wasn’t often that you got to see a man whose dream was literally about to come true, but then the lights went down, and I couldn’t see him anymore.