Saturday, December 8, 2007

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Steve Martin's book, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, is not a choice I would have made had I not watched an interview with him on TV. I haven't been a fan of his, have seldom seen his comedy acts, and have only seen him in a couple of movies. But I was impressed with his interview, and immediately called the library to put a hold on his book, which came very soon after.

Before I finished reading his book, I read a review by Janet Maslin of the New York Times. I agreed with her when she wrote: "Even for readers already familiar with Martin's solemn side, this is a surprising book: smart, serious, heartfelt and confessional without being maudlin." A pleasant surprise for me, and the reason I've made this reading choice for the two different book groups I'm now working with.

I learned that there was much more to know about Steve Martin besides his comedy acts and his films. After Martin finished high school, he applied to Santa Ana Junior College where he took drama classes, and where he found an interest in English poetry from Donne to Eliot. He also was particularly interested in philosophy, but the junior college didn't offer philosophy classes, so he applied to Long Beach State College (which is now called California State College). He enrolled there, majored in philosophy, and earned a Dean's scholarship for his second year.

His book, which he calls a biography rather than an autobiography, created for me not only a new image of Steve Martin, but a real appreciation for his abilities, his talents and his accomplishments.

Click here to listen to a recent NPR interview with Steve Martin on his new book, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life.


A most unusual surprise took place yesterday at the Senior Book Group. Fourteen of us settled around the table ready to begin our book discussion. I had to scoot a half dozen poetry people out of our room...they always seem to forget it's our space every third Thursday of the month, and this is something I have to do almost every month! So when a tall, nice-looking young man came in the room, I quickly let him know the poetry group was meeting down the hall. But the young man, carrying a thick scrapbook under his arm, walked right on in and stood looking over our group. He then said, while looking directly at me, that he was looking for "LOIS." The book group quickly responded, everyone pointing at me. He went on to say that Lois was his second grade teacher and he had pictures to prove it.

While I have recognized a number of my former second graders after they became adults, this person was lost to me. I could not relate the young Curtis Briggs to this young man. He passed the photo around, showed me his scrapbook that his mother had kept so carefully. He proudly showed me a bit of his writing and several of his Greek Myth pictures. The ladies in the room expressed pleasure at learning a little more about me. After some discussion about our second grade, he was gone...and I sat, quite dumbfounded.

Thinking back on the experience today, I'm delighted but more puzzled than ever. How did he find me, and why? Time may tell. He left me his card, and I gave him my phone number. He was my student in 1972-1973. Just imagine!