Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book Review: Spoiler Alert!: The Hero Dies

As you can tell by the meager two other entries under this tag, we do not do Book Reviews very frequently here at More TV, Please. But as anyone who follows this blog knows, TVLine and its head honcho Michael Ausiello are frequently our go-to for tv related gossip. A little over a month ago, Michael published his memoir chronicling his relationship with his late husband Kit. I give it five stars. And I recommend you listen to it in audiobook format, narrated by Michael.

As I mentioned, I have been a huge fan of Michael’s since he started TVLine up a little over six years ago in 2011. I first went there for their daily ratings (although I have to acknowledge the slight superiority of tv by the numbers if only because they provide updated final daily numbers) but they are now my go-to for pretty much anything TV related. From fun episode recaps to cast and creator interviews, I wouldn’t trust my entertainment news to anyone else. So, I was eager to hear what Michael had to say about his and Kit’s relationship, knowing only very little about them and Kit’s battle with terminal cancer. What I got was a truthful, if at times painful, glimpse into the lives of these two men who loved each other a hell of a lot.

First, I’d like to touch on the format of the book which contained a combination of numbered chapters, previously on segments and a final flash forward. This may seem a little haphazard (especially when you are listening to it) but it fits Michael to a T. Given his extensive background in TV (watching, covering it professionally and guest-starring in it) it made perfect sense to frame his narrative as a pseudo tv program. It was a fun way for Michael to slowly introduce the reader (or in my case listener) to Kit and their thirteen-year relationship. We got taken on their first date, their first time together sexually and even Michael’s first time meeting his future mother-in-law (after Kit had an emergency appendectomy). These are intermixed with detailing the final eleven months of Kit’s life after being diagnosed in March 2014 with an aggressive neuroendocrine tumor.

I really felt like we got to know Michael and Kit not only through this harrowing ordeal (of which Michael had previous experience) but as people just living their lives and going through the ups and downs of relationships. All with a healthy dose of black humor and f bombs. Oh boy, does he like to drop the f bomb. I know the tagline of the book is “A memoir of love, loss and other four-letter words” but still. There were a lot of them. Most of the time they were used to accentuate an emotion (both positive and negative throughout the narrative) but there were a few times I felt it was a little overdone. That is probably the only thing I would have to ding him on. But, I also have to give him heaps of credit for being able to write this memoir only a few short years after Kit’s passing. And I loved the little touches of locations and places they’d gone to, especially Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River (and thank you for pronouncing it correctly. As someone who went to Susquehanna University, I’m a tad touchy on that front). I do suspect some of the content (wherein he read emails between himself and Kit or Facebook posts he’d shared during Kit’s cancer battle) was easier to put out than the others. Oh, the morbid benefits of the digital age.

Perhaps the best of this book for me was listening to Michael regale the listener with all of their trials and tribulations. I listened to a lot of audiobooks as a kid but I got out of the habit as I grew older. I’ve recently started getting back into the habit since a phone is a bit easier to carry around than an e-reader tablet but I’ve also discovered that I do better with audiobooks that are non-fiction. Granted, I’ve done one other similar to this (Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”) which was equally enjoyable. But getting to hear Michael tell this story in his own voice and in his own way made it so much more relatable. There were definitely times when he was talking about the harder parts of dealing with cancer (Kit becoming ill, delirious even) to losing his mother to cancer as a young boy where the emotion of it all would just choke him up and I could just imagine the tears in his eyes, him fighting to keep them at bay. There is definitely something to being able to hear his words from his own mouth that lets you connect on a deeper level. It’s like he was telling me this whole story and just me. You can’t get that same connection from a printed book.

In the same way one feels like they know a celebrity, before reading this book, I felt like I knew Michael. I’d seen countless TVLine interviews from Comic Con to have a sense of his style and humor. I’d read plenty of his articles to get a sense of his writer’s voice. But now, I feel like I really know him on a deeper level. And I just want to reach through my computer screen and give him a big old bear hug and say “thank you” for sharing this with me. In a way, this was Kit’s memoir more than it was Michael’s, since memoirs usually come at the end of a person’s life. But, I can definitely say that this was Michael’s memoir, too. The Michael who lived this life with the man he loved. That man, in a sense, died the say day as his husband. But he is thriving and I have no doubt that he is a better person for having had Kit in his life. In a small way, I feel like I am, too.

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