Ashleigh Paige

I'm a full-time college sophomore pursuing my B.A. in English with hopes of one day working as an editor. Cats, musicals, documentaries about cults/disasters/tragedies, and curse words are just a few of my favorite things. Also, check out our blog or I WILL FIND YOU.

Take Your Shirt Off and Cry: A Memoir of Near-Fame Experiences - Nancy Balbirer Also appears on The Screaming Nitpicker.Nonfiction? Me? Yep! Even I need a break from YA every once in a while, and my choice of a memoir written by a former actor about her struggles in Hollywood and New York seemed like a good bet. It was fun, I want to say. Emphasis on want to say because I can't quite do so. Balbirer earned some laughter for her funny anecdotes, but her stories were weak, muddled, and could have been much stronger with a little more organization.The first third is easily the strongest. Balbirer's tales of studying with David Mamet at school, trying to figure out who she is in the New York scene, and are simultaneously touching and funny. Mamet's character really got me; the one and only quote I liked enough to comment had to do with a speech he gave his students: "For our first class, David Mamet delivered a lecture the premise of which was that Bill Cosby was a whore."It's toward the fourth chapter, detailing how her Debra Winger impression got her close to getting a job on Saturday Night Live, that things start to taper off and it began to lose hold of my attention. Do all memoirs read like a series of anecdotes that can't motivate you to move on to the next chapter? If I was supposed to become invested in Balbirer's struggles and be motivated to keep reading that way, it didn't work. How the narrative bounces back between three main time periods (when she's in school in New York, post-school New York, and post-school Los Angeles) between chapters breaks up the order and makes the novel harder to follow.Balbirer's despair and personal struggles with her identity at certain points in her life are evident, but they are swept over or a comedic tone is used to talk about them. What could have been a great opportunity to bring in some depth and pull in readers whose attention spans are at their ends is lost. With such a large cast of characters, some of them mentioned only once when they are apparently important figures in the author's life, I found myself forgetting who was who and why they mattered very often, especially between sittings.Would I read this book again? Maybe, but I would be sticking to the early chapters. For all the praise the younger Nancy Balbirer garnered from Mamet and critics for her work, I still think it could be stronger.And so there was my nonfiction requirement for 2012. More YA, please!