Hope springs eternal in this collection of engaging–if long-winded–oral histories about the battle to earn a living from art.
Eisenberg, himself a struggling screenwriter, interviews dozens of writers, musicians, actors, producers and assorted hangers-on who tell how they keep body and soul together while following their muse. Some of the interviewees have made it; famous and successful, they offer mellow retrospectives on their salad days and avuncular words of wisdom. Some have definitely not made it; their lives are a tense day-to-day hustle, and their psychic defenses–â€œI was told from a few people who have watched our live performance that I was the best Dracula ever that they’ve seen," avers an L.A. actor-waiter-real estate broker–often border on self-delusion. Collectively, they offer a few nuggets of concrete advice for wannabe content providers–aspiring writers are repeatedly enjoined to set themselves a pages-per-day quota–along with plenty of exhortations to face your fears, brush off naysayers and dare to dream. Most of all, they warn, you gotta love it, or the humiliating auditions, rejections slips and cubicled temp jobs just aren't worth it. A lax editor, Eisenberg tends to allow his interviewees to ramble on at inordinate length, occasionally throwing in his own scatter-brained commentary. (Reprinted excerpts of memoirs and reminiscences by the likes of Tom Cruise, Stephen King and P.T. Barnum are pithier.) But readers with the patience to wade through the fluff will find many beguiling anecdotes–Clive Barker writing plays on the dole in Britain for nine years, sheltered by a failed playwright in the welfare bureaucracy; Jamie Farr being rewarded for his prayers to St. Jude with a part playing St. Jude himself.
Although the tales present yet another excuse to procrastinate, would-be creatives may glean some inspiration from these pages.