When I was studying filmmaking at high school (I’d got into a film competition and was frantically studying up for it) I remember one book saying that the key was to study ‘just OK films’. The reasoning was that bad films were irredeemable, good films were either intimidating or just too hard to pull apart, where as ‘just OK’ films had both the good and the bad on show, making it easy to see the intent as well as the different between success and failure on a number of levels.
I was reminded of that when I read Delia Ephron’s book Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc. I’ve read irredeemable books (er, anything involving the Twilight franchise really) and of course the difficult to fault (as such as I hated the tone of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love—funny, I just mistyped East Bray Love, which has a funny tone to it that I can’t help but laugh at—I can’t fault her on either her sense of self that comes seeping out of the pores of the pages, or her journalistic chops when it came to other people, poet/plumber neologism aside) but finding ones in-between were difficult.
I actually stopped reading her book halfway as I felt it began to falter. After a forceful beginning on Nora (so much to say non her both good and bad) and a lovely tribute to her dog, it lulled in discussions of tweeting and other modern maladies. I felt its comparative vapidness and lack of polish starting to kick in.
I came back, it was all a ruse (much like The IT Crowd episode that started off slow and then kicked into gear). The final two chapters are wonderful and without fault.
What’s wonderful about something like this is how it’s obvious how things are put together. As much as I loved some of the essays, I could see the machinery behind some of the lesser ones: the framing mechanism and how it ropes in the different parts, all spinning wheels like a Rube Goldberg machine yet eventually getting you there with a few flourishes along the way.
More than anything, I could see a way to get to Delia in a way that I hadn’t with others. That look behind the curtain, the glance at the Word document (you thought I was going to stay sheets of paper right? Actually she mentions that she uses Final Draft… 7 not 8 as people said not to upgrade!) . There ‘s enough there that I can look and go, hang on, maybe I could do this.
As people have said in the reviews, the lack of eloquence makes it potent, and in my case gives just enough away to make me feel as if I can try it myself.