Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dangerous Animals Club

by Stephen Tobolowsky

A collection of essays and autobiographical pieces by the veteran character actor, amounting a book that is both memoir and pop philosophy.  He’s a witty and self-deprecating story-teller who seems to have an inexhaustible cache of bizarre anecdotes, from his childhood escapades hunting poisonous animals in Texas fields to the surreal experience of working under eccentric director David Milch on “Deadwood,”  from the inexplicable and nasty vendetta an acting professor maintained against Tobolowsky when he was at SMU’s drama school to being thrown out of a hotel in France for punching a toilet, from his rocky relationship with his first love who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright to being held at gunpoint while shopping and trying to talk the crazed gunman down before police jumped him.

The writing is polished and Tobolowsky can make you chuckle as well as tug your heartstrings, but what I think makes this book stand out as something beyond a collection of actor’s stories is the heart behind it.  Whether talking about his reluctant attachment to an abandoned dog that bounds back from the brink of death or relaying his gentle argument with an atheist in a hotel bar, Tobolowsky comes across as a gentle soul who realizes how lucky he’s been, and appreciates the ride.  It makes his book a pleasant and affecting experience, not just an interesting or amusing one. 

four stars

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