Hump Day: Summer reading: learn what celebrities are like in real life

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I used to read quite a few books every year. Horror novels were a favourite, especially Stephen King. Just the thought of reading his 1983 book Pet Sematary still sends shivers down my spine, as do Cujo and Christine.

As I got older, though, horror novels, “spooky” comics and slasher movies took a back seat to more sedate fare such as personal development books and modern novels. Eventually, I tired completely of non-fiction and stuck exclusively to fiction. I looked at reading as an investment rather than a hobby.

I got sick of personal development books, though, and kept buying them without reading them. I’m pretty sure I have the most expensive unread library in our great dominion. I’d be brilliant had I read all those books, let me tell ya. Unfortunately, as well intentioned as I was when I bought them, I started treating books like I treat lettuce.

Lettuce, you ask? Yes. If you’re like me, you buy that beautiful head of lettuce at the grocery store or the farmers’ market with every intention of turning it into a delicious and healthy salad. You take it home and dream about the beautiful green meal you’ll be eating that night. You’ll live forever after eating it. You will likely see angels, too.

A week later, as you clean out your refrigerator on “garbage night” you find the now brown and rotten head of lettuce in back next to the tomatoes and cucumber – all of which need to be thrown out, too. I have killed many uneaten heads of lettuce in my lifetime. I’m pretty sure the United Nations has me on their most-wanted list for vegetable genocide.

In the past few years, personal development books have become the “new lettuce.” They come into the house with all the best intentions in the world and eventually end up being given away or disintegrating under a layer of dust that a jackhammer would have difficulty penetrating.

Recently, I’ve gone back to basics and decided that I was going to read for the sheer pleasure of it. Eventually, I would build back up to the personal development books from which I learned great lessons but always ended up being put on the back burner. So, I decided to indulge in guilty pleasures. Since I’ve been a television addict for a long time, I thought I’d read biographies written by people I used to watch on television.

My first choice was Behind the Bell by Dustin Diamond, the actor who played Screech on Saved by the Bell. The show was brain candy – something to watch on the weekends. Screech was goofy and likeable. I thought maybe the book would be some voyeuristic look back at what happened behind the scenes of the show.

Well, let me tell you that Screech’s likeability was a great acting job by Diamond, who was thoroughly unlikeable as a rude, jealous, judgmental and self-pitying author. It was all I could do to finish this awful book, the production of which was amateurish at best, with typos and larges spaces between paragraphs that were obviously errors. Not sure who did the layout, but whoever it was should be ashamed.

A book I thoroughly enjoyed, however, was Before the Camera, an autobiography by CTV Atlantic news anchor Steve Murphy. It was a great look back on his long career in news in the Maritimes. That book certainly had a few more redeeming qualities than Dustin Diamond’s waste of time.

Carol Burnett’s This Time Together was an enjoyable and quick bedtime read. I grew up watching her variety show and laughed along with everyone else at Tim Conway’s adlibs and efforts to get Harvey Korman to crack up. Each chapter is only a few pages long and touches on a certain vignette from her life. I’m a bedtime reader, and this book was good for putting me in a good mood before closing my eyes for the night.

Ever noticed that pawn shop and junk buying-and-selling (“pickers”) shows are all the rage now? If you’re going to watch one, Pawn Stars is the one to go with, in my opinion. It’s more educational (seriously) and has a cast of characters who are mostly likeable. Host Rick Harrison’s book License to Pawn was an easy read and gave an interesting look back at some of the tough times his family has had, including what really goes on in a pawn shop! It also gives some great advice on negotiating prices.

And finally, there’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim, who played the bratty Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. This was my favourite of all of them. Her parents were Canadian. She’s hilarious, self-deprecating, honest and a good judge of character. She also had lots of good dirt to tell from the Little House set.

Sweet little Melissa Sue Anderson, who played the beatific Mary Ingalls? In real life, not so sweet or beatific. Was Arngrim’s character’s enemy on the show – Laura Ingalls played by Melissa Gilbert – really her enemy? Nope! Best friends in real life! And what about show patriarch Michael Landon, who played Pa Ingalls? Turns out he was allergic to wearing underwear. (Something to look for if you ever see a rerun!)

Arngrim was also sexually abused by her brother from a young age – the tale of which adds a horrific edge to this great book.

Summer’s the perfect time to indulge in a few guilty pleasures. Other than the Dustin Diamond book, I can recommend any of the ones mentioned above – especially Arngrim’s work. I couldn’t put it down.

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