Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mount TBR #63

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

Brando for Breakfast - Anna Kashfi and E.P. Stein

Anna Kashfi (1934 - 2015), was an Indian-born American movie actress who was stormily married to Marlon Brando for 11 months before they separated in 1958. She and Brando then fought a 14-year custody battle for their son Christian. During one of the many hearings Brando said he married her only because she was with child, and that he intended from the get-go to divorce her within a year.

Kashfi understandably has grievances, being married to a genius actor who was an unconventional selfish human being. And so early on in this hatchet job fur flies:

Marlon’s sexual tutti-frutti comprise several shadier flavors…I had heard tales of his consorting with ducks, attending exhibitionist orgies, joining the Club Necrophilia (wherein bodies of deceased celebrities are rented out) and consulting a ‘proctolist’ (a ‘rectum-reader’ whose soothsaying derives from anal creases).

Duck f*cking and celeb corpses aside, sometimes it is constructive to get confirmation that people will believe anything, like telling the future from wrinkles of the rectum. But the compassion we readers feel for Bud and Anna is only the automatic sympathy any decent person would feel upon hearing the story of two adults that apparently couldn’t help themselves figuring, why not bring a child into our madhouse of a household? The compassion we feel does not come from the writing. The tone is too mean, the mood too livid, the incidents too sordid, the conceit too pathetic for us readers to feel much for the unhappy couple.

Which is not to say it is totally humorless. Somehow the subject’s really odd vocabulary choices got by the ghost writer. I can’t imagine any professional writer letting word choices like this escape deletion:  "He balanced a steatopygous form on squat, sturdy legs." Steato – whuh? And it is not just trouble with hard words. I’ve heard of lies both “barefaced” and “baldfaced” but I’ve never heard of a “barefoot lie.”

A more intentional upside is that she tells interesting production stories about Streetcar, One Eyed Jacks, and Mutiny on the Bounty. Chunks of the last third of this book, however, are marred by tales of lawyers, courtrooms, hearings, writs, injunctions, allegations of lying, about all of which is as interesting as hearing about somebody’s gall bladder procedure.

The upshot is, even if only half of what she says is true, working with a creative person who is chaotic in daily habits and childishly selfish in expectations from other people must be hard but living with such a creature of nature must be impossible. In a weird incident, he came home under the impression that she was had drowned in the pool. When he saw she was in fact still alive, he got a disappointed look on his face. ‘Tis a rare marriage that could survive that.

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