So, I find myself again reviewing a book I enjoyed in many ways but which fell short of its stated goal. I liked reading these interviews, but felt that they were united more by their NPR-iness than by anything they had to say about the creative process.
I am a fan and supporter of NPR (making me atypical for this site, I know), but I never really differentiated between the segments, other than to squeal with joy at “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” or “Car Talk;” or curse my fate any time I heard Garrison Keillor’s voice. As such, I’m not positive that these interviews are simply transcribed from Studio 360, the author’s NPR show, but MAN is the “NPR voice” strong in this book.
Thats not a bad thing; I love NPR, so the tone isn’t a problem. The brevity may be. The book is an exceptionally slight 240 pages, and reading it, I took a few chapters to find any thematic unity amongst the stories. Once I did, it often felt like the introduction to a story was being given and then abandoned before really starting. Moreover, I never felt as though I learned much about the subjects’ proverbial spark. Kevin Bacon’s tale of being overshadowed by his more-famous-in-Philadelphia father is a unique look into what drives the actor, but not a probing one; we never learn what drove him to acting versus civic planning (as his father gained fame doing), only that he was driven to be more famous than the man whose autograph is often sought next to his more widely-known son. The book often states, rarely shows.
That said, it’s hard to be too critical of a book that falls short of an ambitious goal, and whose greatest flaw is brevity.