ASK Musings

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Monthly Archive: May 2017



May 2017



Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Those who have been sucked into the Hamilton zeitgeist; those who are interested in learning more about creative genius.

In a nutshell: Annotated lyrics to Hamilton interspersed with stories from the development of the show and spotlights on original cast members.

Line that sticks with me: “I think it’s unfair o ask actors to go onstage and expose themselves with anything less that what he calls ‘ultimate support.’”

Why I chose it: Because it’s Hamilton.

Review: I enjoy musical theater. I’m not a fanatic, but I have been known to sing along to On My Own from Les Miserables in my car more times than I can count. I put the Thoroughly Modern Millie soundtrack on in the background when I’m working. And I own the original cast recording of Hamilton on vinyl (along with Patty Lupone’s Evita).

I came to the Hamilton phenomenon a little later than most, but before some others. I’ve still not seen it, but I have tickets for the tour when it arrives in Seattle in February 2018 (on Valentine’s Day, actually). I ran around giddy when the Mixtape ended up released at 9PM instead of midnight (yay west coast!), and of course I watched the PBS special.

This book was a delight to read. I started it on Saturday afternoon and finished it up after lunch on Sunday. I didn’t want to put it down. The notations on the lyrics provide lovely insight into the choices an artist makes, but the real story lies with the chapters that follow the development of the show, from a concept album through the full-blown Broadway blockbuster it is today. The stories about the original stars provide some insight into people who all of a sudden are household names in a way that many stage actors never are.

But what I think I found most interesting were the stories about the nitty gritty – the costume design, the stage production, the choreography. My husband has maybe listened to the soundtrack once, but even he didn’t mind when I kept interrupting him with a new amazing nugget I’d learned about the behind-the-scenes world. And the section about “It’s Quiet Uptown” – devastating.

I can’t imagine that anyone who is interested in the musical hasn’t at least added it to their to be read pile, but if there are any holdouts, there’s no need. Check it out.



May 2017



There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say by Paula Poundstone

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People who enjoy Paula Poundstone on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

In a nutshell: Comedian shares details of her life – including the time when she was convicted of endangering her children – against the backdrop of historical biographies. Seriously.

Line that sticks with me: I listened to the audio book, so I can’t quote directly, but I, too, was a girl cast as Peter Quince in an elementary school production of Midsummer Nights’ Dream.

Why I chose it: Ms. Poundstone has a new book out, which I was hoping would be available on audio. It is not yet, but this one was, and so I picked it up.

Review: I started listening to this book this morning on my run, and kept it going all morning as I cleaned up, did chores, painted my nails. It was fun to listen to, engaging, and generally a good way to stay entertained on a Saturday when I have things to do but don’t want to listen to music.

Ms. Poundstone is regularly featured on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR; I also saw her stand-up show in Seattle a few years ago. I’ve found her mostly endearing, and was definitely surprised when she was charged with, among other things, ‘lewd acts with a minor’ many years ago. She addresses the arrest and sentencing in the book (the lewd act charge was dropped; she was punished instead for endangering her children by driving drunk with them in the car), allowing for the seriousness of it all while reflecting on some of the more absurd parts.

What makes the whole book kind of odd, but in a good way, is that each of the seven chapters intertwines parts of her story with the biography of an historical figure. Joan of Arc, Beethoven, Helen Keller and others are heavily featured. Ms. Poundstone isn’t comparing herself to them in any serious way; their accomplishments serve as a way for her to self-deprecatingly associate her life and challenges with those of others. And honestly, I learned a few things about these historical figures along the way, which was unexpected but a clever way to frame a book.

I also appreciated how she was open with the fact that she doesn’t have sex, and doesn’t enjoy it. She doesn’t judge others for having sex, and makes a couple of jokes at her own expense about it (namely focusing on how tired she is that even if she were doing sex correctly, as she assumes she wasn’t, she can’t imagine it being better than good sleep), but it is refreshing to hear someone speak openly about not being interested in it.

I can’t urge anyone to race out and get this, and there were certainly some cringe-worthy moments (I’m still not sure how I feel about the first part of the last chapter, which was focused on Chief Sitting Bull), but overall I think it was worth a Saturday morning’s worth of time.



May 2017



The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People who enjoy Ms. Solnit’s writing.

In a nutshell: Essays on the experiences of women.

Line that sticks with me: “The entitlement to be the one who is heard, believed, and respected has silenced so many women who may never be heard, in so many cases.”

Why I chose it: I’ve enjoyed Ms. Solnit’s writing in the past.

Review: I wish I had more energy to do this review justice. I definitely enjoyed many of the essays in this book, and as always Ms. Solnit has a way with words that any writer would envy. That said – I don’t know. This one didn’t do as much for me as her last book.

I found the second half of the book to be more engaging and interesting to read than the first half, although I did underline and make notes on quite a few passages throughout. Her words on the Isla Vista murders and on rape jokes are especially good, but I can’t really imagine that I’ll be buying this for friends or returning to it often over the years to come.