KEY GRIP by Dustin Beall Smith


A Memoir of Endless Consequences
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Veteran film hand/hard drinker/coke sniffer/celebrity wannabe/Kerouac emulator/skydiver/Lakota sweat-lodger/adjunct undergraduate instructor Smith (English/Gettysburg Coll.) tells all.

He’d always wanted to be a writer, declares the first-time author; it just took him more than 50 years to get around to it. It seems longer in this salmagundi of a memoir. Smith chops up his myriad ingredients, stirs briskly, then invites us to reassemble them—which is not always easy. His father was an artist who seemed to understand the adolescent angst that caused Smith to drop out of Columbia, hitch around the country, take up skydiving, return to college and then wander into the movie business, where his long career as a key grip was perennially endangered by his alcoholism. The author once found himself naked outside his locked motel room on a balcony overlooking the parking lot. He nuzzled with Susan Sarandon and snorted coke with Treat Williams. Two marriages imploded (Smith is quite vague about the second), one of his children died (he writes oddly little about this), and so did his father. Nearing the end of his film career, he met a Lakota, decided he wanted to go on a vision quest and headed to the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he sweated and saw many ugly things that either were or were not there. Smith scatters about some tales about an intransigent snapping turtle (he’s sorry he killed it), a couple of films he worked on (Savages, Cop Land), a suicide he witnessed (the barefoot leaper made a bad sound when she landed), a couple of boyhood summers at camp (he cried the first night). Many sentences feature verbatim dialogue from a half-century ago and indulge in clichés of every sort: floodgates open; things fall into place. It all comes to an end with a second-person riff on Life.

Slim—in every way.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-547-05369-1
Page count: 160pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2008