School's starting up and if you have kids that means you'll actually have time to read something. (And if you don't have kids you might already be reading.) Here are two great books worth making time for this month.
I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era by Tom Roston
I'm a fan of oral histories because they capture the voice of those involved, describing their own individual views to create a richer, wider whole. Contradictions can abound as the passage of time allows each participant to see things they way they either were or how they were wished to be. Some of my favorite books are oral histories and Tom Roston's - though short on pages - is one of them. I Lost It at the Video Store captures that magical time from around 1985-2004 when the video store dominated everyone's lives. I myself recall many experiences traversing the aisles of my local Blockbuster and Hollywood Video - I never had a mom and pop video store in my town - and it's an experience that's wholly different from scouring Netflix at 3am.
Roston's tome interviews the filmmakers influenced by their education at the video store, whether working within it, profiting off it or simply dropping by on a Friday night. Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and David O. Russell are just a few of the prominent names that describe their video store experiences as Roston charts how the video store market became the de facto savior for independent cinema and what we've lost with their demise. Roston's breezy narrative doesn't have a lot of fat, and I'm sure there could have been a longer look at the mechanics of the home video market, but what's there is remarkably fun, viscerally presenting a time both recent in memory and gone by. If you've ever lost your mind at the realization that you couldn't rent The Terminator or you still owe money to Blockbuster in late fees, then you too probably Lost It at the Video Store!
Sharon Tate: A Life by Ed Sanders
Sharon Tate's name is synonomous with tragedy and it's a shame since it obscures the life of a sensitive young woman working her way through the world of Hollywood. Beautiful and weeks from giving birth, Sharon Tate, in death, represents both the Hollywood candle snuffed too quickly and the happy idealization of a celebrity who could have had it all. There aren't many books content with showcasing Tate's life aside from her horrific demise; Ed Sanders' Sharon Tate: A Life won't be breaking that trend anytime soon. Though Sanders' biography does give a look into Tate, and husband Roman Polanski's very different lives, Sanders' prose is often distracted, moving quickly from item to item, doubling back and repeating points too often. When he isn't filling space, he's rehashing gossipy items easily found on the internet or, like most Tate books, recounting the already well-trod road to her death. There are glimmers of a life within, but it isn't Tate's.