Tough Sh*t by Kevin Smith

Title: Tough Sh*t
Author: Kevin Smith
Narrator: Kevin Smith
Series: N/A
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 3/20/2012
Length: 5 hours, 58 minutes
Format: Unabridged Audio CDs
Genres: Nonfiction, Humor, Memoir
Challenges: 2012 Audiobook Challenge, 2012 Spring/Summer Reading Challenge
Source: Publisher (thank you!)
Purchase: Audio CD | Digital Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆

Profane, honest, and totally real advice from comedian and director Kevin Smith – one of America’s most original voices 

Take one look at Kevin Smith: He’s a balding fatty who wears a size XXL hockey jersey, shorts, and slippers year-round. Not a likely source for life advice. But take a second look at Kevin Smith: He changed filmmaking forever when he was twenty-four with the release ofClerks, and since then has gone on to make nine more profitable movies, runs his own production company, wrote a bestselling graphic novel, and has a beautiful wife and kids. So he must be doing something right.

As Kevin’s millions of Twitter followers and millions of podcast listeners know, he’s the first one to admit his flaws and the last one to care about them. In early 2011, he began using his platform to answer big questions from fans-like “What should I do with my life?”- and he discovered that he had a lot to say. Tough Sh*t distills his four decades of breaking all the rules down to direct and brutally honest advice, including:

Why he has accepted Ferris Bueller as his personal savior, and what the Tenets of Buellerism can teach about hiding in plain sight and lip-syncing in the face of danger Why it’s really fun to eat but not so fun to be fat What to do about people who don’t like your policies ( for starters, tell them to pucker up and smooch your big ol’ butt) What Kevin’s idol Wayne Gretzky can teach us about creativity and direction For anyone who’s out of a job, out of luck, or just out of sugary snack foods,Tough Sh*t is an unabashedly honest guide to getting the most out of doing the least.

For someone who was around seven when Clerks premiered, I was very excited when I opened my box from Penguin Audio and saw this book. I didn’t need anyone to tell me who Kevin Smith is, what he looks like, or why he’s famous. I knew all that already thanks to my two older brothers. So I would like to half-heartedly dedicate this review to them. Brian and Blake, without you I would have been as clueless about who Kevin Smith was as all my friends were when I told them about this book. Sometimes I forget that the guys I hang around are younger than me and that my taste in films and music in the 90s was heavily influenced by my teenage brothers.

Even though I saw most of Kevin Smith’s films when I was probably too young to be watching them, I loved them instantly. No matter what the critics said, I found them hilarious. I also have a major soft spot geeky guys of any kind, especially since I’m a pretty geeky girl. It was pretty eye-opening to read all this behind-the-scenes stuff about the movies I enjoyed years ago. Honestly, I was totally oblivious to critic opinions about the films. I just watched them, and enjoyed them. I had no clue how much crap Kevin Smith put up with to make some of his films. There’s some pretty cool insight into the movie business, both indie and big six. I think all of that stuff is interesting enough, but there is a lot more to Smith’s book than film talk and cum jokes (though, there are a lot of those).

This book also offers some really great advice about discovering your passion and going for it. By chronicling his years from making Clerks trough today, he explains how he really got where he is: by not listening to people’s negative crap and following his dream. Of course, it’s not all as simple as that. There is tough shit to be endured, and that’s what I think Smith is trying to say in this book. There will be hardships and probably some failings. You have to take chances, but it will pay off in the end when you can look back and say you’ve accomplished something worthwhile (whether it be art, work, or an awesome family). The awesome part is that this advice is delivered in a voice that a younger generation can relate to. Kevin Smith may be close to twenty years older than me, but he talks like your best friend. He’s full of witty pop-culture references and profanity that color the speech of a lot of people today. He’s relatable, and I think that’s what makes this book work. He’s giving advice, but it doesn’t really feel like it. At least, not in the same way that your parents or teachers (or whoever) give you advice.

Kevin Smith reads this book himself, and it’s perfect. I mean, after all he’s a good speaker and only he can deliver his words just right. Also, he stops reading a couple of times to throw in some quick comments and I found that really entertaining. I also loved his voices for Tarantino and Bruce Willis. They were pretty close. At the end, he includes something his daughter wrote about him, and it has to be the sweetest thing ever. I’m pretty sure she reads it herself, which is also pretty cute.

If you know who Kevin Smith or have seen his films, you should grab this. If you don’t and you enjoy crude but witty humor, you should grab it anyway. There’s always time to watch the films after.

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Tiger, Tiger

Tiger, Tiger
by Margaux Fragoso
Published 2011 by Farrar, Srous, and Giroux
336 pages. Hardcover.
Rating: 4/5

One summer day, Margaux Fragoso swam up to Peter Curran at a public swimming pool and asked him to play. She was seven; he was fifty-one. When Curran invited her and her mom to see his house, the little girl found a child’s dream world, full of odd pets and books and music and magical toys. Margaux’s mother was devoted, but beset by mental illness and frightened of her abusive husband; she was only too ready to take advantage of an escape for the daughter she felt incapable of taking care of on her own. Soon Margaux was spending all her time with Peter.

In time, he insidiously took on the role of Margaux’s playmate, father, lover, and captor. Charming and repulsive, warm and violent, loving and manipulative, Peter burrowed into every aspect of Margaux’s life and transformed her from a girl fizzing with imagination and affection into a deadened, young-old woman on the brink of suicide. But when she was twenty-two, it was Peter—ill, and terrified at the thought of losing her—who killed himself, at the age of sixty-six.

With lyricism and mesmerizing clarity, Margaux Fragoso has unflinchingly explored the darkest episodes of her life, helping us see how pedophiles work hidden away in the open to steal childhood. In writing Tiger, Tiger, she has healed herself of a wound that was fourteen years in the making. This extraordinary memoir is an unprecedented glimpse into the heart and mind of a monster; but more than this, it illustrates the power of memory and truth-telling to mend.

I first heard about this book through NPR. Someone had written a review, I believe. It was incredibly intriguing. There were a couple of quotes (not the ones I’ve used) that made me want to go pick it up. I put it on my TBR and forgot about it for a little while. When I was in the airport Monday, waiting for my delayed flight, I was browsing the shops and saw this book. I decided I’d pick it up. I read quite a few chapters while I was waiting, and devoured the rest of the book when I got home.

You might be thinking, “why would I want to read a book about pedophilia?” I’ll tell you why: because it’s a brilliant book. It’s so well written. I love when I read a book and I can tell that the author has put their soul into it. And could she not put her soul into the story of her turbulent childhood? It’s obvious that she worked hard on this book.

The most interesting thing that I want to point out is how Peter is portrayed. There’s this quote on the back of the book saying something about how she humanizes a pedophile. It’s such a great quote because it’s so true. Don’t hate me for saying this, but it’s really hard to hate Peter. Yes, he did some awful things to Margaux, but I can’t just categorize people into good vs. evil. It’s just not how the world works. Peter had a difficult childhood himself, and it probably had some bearing on who he turned out to be. He also had some mental unbalance, like depression and mood swings. This book forces the reader to look at pedophilia in a why they may not have imagined: as a problem that can be treated when it’s recognized. Peter even says it himself.

     “I don’t understand,” I said, “You used to say it was just me but now you’re saying you did it with other girls before me. I thought I was special. You said you fell in love with me.” Thinking about this, I felt like a power source with too many of its outlets in use, like whole brain was having a blackout.
     “I love you,” Peter said, his voice carrying. “And you are special. I loved my daughters, too, and I only wanted to show them how much. But now I realize that I was as sick as any alcoholic, gampler, or drug user. There’s no rehab for people like me and I feel so isolated from the rest of the world. I feel like I’m an outcast who can never fit in no matter what I do.”
     Peter gripped my hand. “I have to get better somehow. Even if it’s on my own.” He paused and then said, “Will you help me?”,
     “Yes,” I said weakly, though I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do.

pg. 238-239

Peter was never really a bad person, exactly. He made some really horrible choices, and those choices hurt Margaux, her family, and himself in the end. He wasn’t lacking in guilt, however. There was a particular quote I found interesting when Peter decided that he was responsible for Margaux missing out on a lot of her childhood.

     “I have to tell you about this ladder. It had a bunch of missing rungs. She stood there in her blue glow and looked at me with perfect calm. After a while, I was filled with horror. You see, I’ve been reading these books while you’re at school, about how children interperet sexuality…”
     “What about the ladder?”
     …”It was your life, sweetheart. And the rungs were the years you’d lost because of me.”
     “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” I felt like my circuits were overload again.
     “Let me explain. Life occurs in stages, like rungs. First, you’re a child playing with dolls. Then you’re a preteen, getting into boys. Then you’re a teenager, dating and such. But for you these stages were skipped. What we have to do is go back and repair the ladder. To do that we have to stop all the sex. Just quit cold turkey. Our love has to be wholly pure and spiritual. I’ll be your father.”

pg. 240

I’m not trying to defend Peter. He was clearly emotionally unbalanced. What he did to Margaux was awful, and it caused some of the same emotional problems in her own life. But Margaux herself points out many factors that might have been part of what happened. Because of the way her mother’s molestation was handled, her mother failed to see the warning signs that were flashing like bright, red lights in front of her. Margaux’s home life was next to terrible, and Peter seemed to be the only person who was ever nice to her. He earned her trust when she was young and naive. He manipulated her, her family, and himself into believing that there was nothing wrong with their relationship. But it all started somewhere. Peter’s own personal problems and experiences were a large part of the person he became and the choices he made. If someone had known, had seen the signs early enough, he might have been able to get help. And I think that’s part of the point Margaux is trying to make. She, a mother now herself, wants children to be safe and brought up in healthy environments.

I was captivated by her story and amazed at her courage in telling it. The writing is exquisite. I recommend this book.

Prude Filter: This book contains pedophilia, profanity, detailed sexual content, violence, and references to drugs, rape, and alcoholism.

Source: Hudson Group
Purchase this book: FSG/Macmillan | Book Depository | IndieBound

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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