Entertainment Book Reviews

Sunday 21 September 2014

Books Review - Fiction: Amy Sohn's The Actress

Ed Power pits a novel against a non-fiction each week - verdict: Fiction

Published 24/07/2014 | 00:00

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The Actress
In The Interests of Safety

Amy Sohn's life story would make a pretty good novel in its own right. She began her career an aspiring actress, but, a few bit-parts in Law and Order aside, her dreams of a grand life on screen were frustrated.

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So in the late 90s she set about reinventing herself as a sort of Generation X equivalent of Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell, writing provocative personal columns for the New York Press and New York magazine, and creating her own TV show, Avenue Amy. In recent years, the Brooklyn-based writer has focused on fiction and seems poised to break into the bestsellers list with her fourth novel. Drawing on her experiences in the entertainment business, it concerns obscure independent film actress Maddy Freed who, via a sequence of convoluted events, finds herself dating one of the foremost bachelor stars of the age, the (largely fictional) Steven Weller.

There have been rumours for years that Weller is gay - nonetheless Maddy is swept off her feet and into marriage. But will fame-by-association help her conquer Hollywood, as she has hoped? And what about the suspicion she is merely part of an ongoing ruse to conceal her movie-star husband's true sexuality from the world? There are plenty of nods towards real-life Hollywood figures, though the distinguishing feature is Sohn's bouncy prose, which practically jumps off the page and gives you a big, sloppy bear-hug. Recommended for those who enjoy their middle-brow literature spiced with generous pinches of gossip-industry brimstone.

Simon and Schuster, 4 Stars

Fact: In The Interests Of Safety

It can often feel modern life is crippled by the cult of health and safety run amok. In this cheerfully polemical tome, journalists Hanlon and Brown demonstrate 'health' and 'safety' are not necessarily the flipside of one another; it may be healthy to go for a run in the middle of the night without a high-visibility vest but it certainly isn't safe. Conversely, it is perfectly safe to stay plonked in front of the television all day but few would argue it is good for you.

As you would expect many of the absurdist rules identified here pertain to flying. The authors give the example of a pilot, about to assume responsibility for the lives of 200 passengers, having a butter knife confiscated.

Occasionally, the book feels like a very politely constructed rant. But there is a serious point alongside the polemic. Many of the regulations with which we are brow-beaten each day are not handed down from on-high by legislators or judiciary - often they are procedural quirks dreamt up by middle management with nothing better to do with their time (such as the prohibition on London Underground workers wearing woolly hats).

In other instances, red-tape convolutions are the result of political expedience. Americans are forbidden from buying unpasteurised cheese, for instance, yet can easily lay their hands on lethal fire-arms. Similarly far more children are killed by drivers near schools than by dangerous dogs - and yet, while the campaign (in the UK) to regulate ownership of mastiffs etc is ongoing, nobody talks about restricted driving around schools. We want the State to make our lives as safe as possible - provided it doesn't cramp or style or leave us running late.

Tracey Brown & Michael Hanlon, Sphere

3 Stars

DVD review by Ben Keenan

Noah

(12A)

More Lord of The Rings than Passion of The Christ, Noah is brimming with fantastical creatures and stunning imagery, with Russell Crowe bringing depth to the eponymous ark-builder, a conflicted zealot driven by devotion to do great and awful things.

Clipping along at a strong pace, the film comfortably sits at just over two hours without feeling too long and writer and director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) does an amazing job of making the characters seem simple, yet no less human.

4 Stars

20 Feet From Stardom

(12A)

Examining the gulf between backing singers and the stars they share the stage with, 20 Feet From Stardom features touching interviews with its subjects talking about day jobs and making ends meet, while signed platinum records hang on their walls and Grammys sit on their shelves.

You may not know the names of any of the backing singers featured, but their work is iconic; from The Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson, this handful of women helped create the sound of soul music and rock'n'roll for nearly fifty years.

4 Stars

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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