The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive
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Best known for his work in Sex and the City and The West Wing, full-time character actor and part-time author Handler follows up his gripping memoir about surviving cancer (Time on Fire, 1996) with a collection of autobiographical essays.

They cover topics ranging from acting and psychotherapy to dating and selling an engagement ring; approximately half the essays are connected to his illness. Beating leukemia was obviously a defining moment for the author, and it’s hardly fair to criticize him for writing, often touchingly, about the experience. Still, the woe-is-me percentage is relatively high, and Handler’s self-pitying (and periodic self-flagellation) grows difficult to read by the book’s final third. Nonetheless, it has some fine moments. “Menace to Society” is a cockeyed, High Fidelity-esque rundown of notable girlfriends, and the author’s honesty about his roller-coaster love life is admirable. “My Life Story,” which details the attempt to translate Time on Fire into a screenplay, provides memorable entrée into the head of a writer (a scary place to be, as all writers know). Handler’s prose is readable, sometimes even clever: “When I was first shown the collection of buildings my father-in-law owns in Molinella, a small town in northern Italy,” he writes, “I immediately began calculating how much longer he might live.” The primary problem here is that the author seems like a decent person, but not necessarily the kind of guy with whom readers want to spend nearly 300 pages. His brutally frank and blisteringly angry debut was far more compelling.

Painfully honest and self-deprecating to the point of discomfort.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59448-995-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2008