September: Fifty/Fifty Challenge

I read an entire book!

So, take that, Fifty/Fifty Challenge!

Now, I know there are plenty of you out there who can read a whole new book every week and, frankly, I’m jealous. I’m sure, that for you, reading 50 books in one year is quite doable–as easy as making a run to Starbucks for a grande, no-foam, non-fat latte.

But, for me, 50 books in 12 months is Mt. Kilimanjaro–daunting, impossible and out of my reach.

So, imagine my delight when I was able to finish one more book in the month of September! Which brings my book quota to 14 so far this year!  With three months left to 2012, I’m so close to reaching my challenge goal. Right?


Well, I could start getting all despondent over it and sulk, but, here’s the way I see it:

There’s always next year!

So, what book did I read?

An autobiography titled, My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business, a Memoir by Dick Van Dyke.

And, sure, the book was under 300 pages, but hey, at least it wasn’t one of those unauthorized autobiographies, if you know what I mean. At least, Dick Van Dyke approved what he wrote, which makes everything, in this “tell-all,” true!

Though, it wasn’t one of those juicy kind of tell-all’s at all. If you ask me, for a Hollywood star, Van Dyke led an ordinary life. Which, actually, is pretty refreshing.

Dick Van Dyke is one of my favorite comedic actors, hailing back to his days on the Dick Van Dyke Show, which was hilarious. Carl Reiner was the writing genius, who created the series, but Dick Van Dyke carried it, making it the perfect show for families to gather around the old television console and watch.

Remember the episode where Dick Van Dyke, as Rob, is remembering the story of how his son, Richie, was born, and the guy with the sandwich cart enters the office and somehow ends up spilling coffee on Rob’s pants? And, while Rob’s pants are sent to the cleaners, and he’s left in his boxers, Rob gets a call from Laura, his wife, to let him know she’s gone into labor? Which leaves Rob with no choice but to borrow Buddy’s trousers, that are way too short and wide for Rob. Throw in the police, a fender bender, a nosy neighbor, and a phone that ends up falling into Rob’s pants, and you’ve got the ingredients for one of the funniest and freshest sitcoms in TV history. Oh, Rob!

In his memoir, Van Dyke writes joyously about his lucky life. About his childhood, and how his parents would leave him alone in his crib when he was two, and go out on the town, and, how, when he was six, he’d babysit his younger brother, Jerry, while his parents went to the movies. He’s also candid about his personal struggle to give up drinking, his smoking habit, and his painful divorce.

The book also affirms what I always new: that Van Dyke is a nice guy who deliberately sought out to make the kind of films that families could see together. He’s a deeply spiritual man, too, who once considered becoming a minister, but then got the acting bug. He didn’t think himself a singer, but he loved to dance and do pratfalls. He loved making the film, Mary Poppins, but he didn’t like having to learn to talk with a British accent, as it proved very difficult for him. He married his high school sweetheart and together they had four children.

He is a man of compassion, speaking on behalf of civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr., and later, when he was on his church’s board, suggesting that his all-white congregation reach out to the nearby African-American church in order to forge a relationship. But, when the other church members rejected his idea, he left the church for good.

He loved his career and shares snippets of memories of working with Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Julie Andrews, Paul Lynde and Chita Rivera. He didn’t want to retire, but when it was suggested, during production of his last series, Diagnosis Murder, that the show needed to move at a faster clip in order to appeal to a younger audience, Van Dyke did not go “gently into the sunset.” Instead, he said this:

“Growing old is not a leper colony where an unfortunate few are sent to die. It is a precious gift given only to some lucky human beings.”

My Life in and Out of Show Business is a must-read for anyone who has fond memories of Dick Van Dyke.

In the Fifty/Fifty movie challenge, I’m doing so much better, having been able to watch a few films while my daughter was home for summer break. Among them:

Bye Bye Birdie, a 1963 musical starring Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh.

A double-feature of Bridget Jones Diary and Bridget Jones the Edge of Reason (Yay! Colin Firth!)

Grey Gardens, an HBO movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Based on a true story, Drew won an Emmy for her portray.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, fun chick-flick with Kate Hudson.

The Company Men, good but depressing movie, starring Ben Affleck, filmed during the height of the economic downturn.

So, what books did you read? What films did you catch up on last month?

51 thoughts on “September: Fifty/Fifty Challenge

  1. You know I used to be able to read three or four books in a week, if not more, but that was before I started writing. Now everything I used to do goes undone or takes longer. I am a movie buff, but I watch fewer movies. I’m sure if I didn’t have a day job I’d have balance and be able to read more… Un-huh, sure. Sounds like a good book. And hey, you’re so close to reaching 50! Maybe you should pick up some picture books – do they count? Don’t hit me. I’m growing in word right now. Through me a life raft.

    • Brenda, why is that whenever we want to do something really important, like read a book, our day job gets in the way??

      And yes, I have thought about resorting to picture books. Which is why I’ve signed up for story time at my local library this weekend. After all, you’re never too old to indulge the kid inside you. 😉

  2. That sounds like an awesome book. Also, for those into Hollywood autobiographies by awesome people, a great one is Alan Alda’s Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.

    Love most of the movies you’ve been watching. Soundtrack to Bye Bye Birdie lives on my iPod. Currently, I am reading menage erotica, but within the last month I *finally* finished Les Miserables (the unabridged version, about 1500 pages, mon dieu!) And I just read an interesting book by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt: THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. (Reviewed on GoodReads & Amazon.)

  3. Hi Monica, Dick Van Dyke saved my sister’s life. When we were teens, he had filmed a public service announcement giving helpful hints about what to do in the event of a fire. One of those tips was, if you are on fire, drop on all fours all roll. One day, we were in the kitchen, my mom, my sister and me. My sister was cooking something on the stove and I don’t know how, but she got to close to the flame on the gas burner, and her sweater caught fire. She screamed – remembered Dick Van Dyke and dropped on all fours and rolled – the fire was put out immediately, and the kicker – her sweater didn’t even sustain any damages! So whenever I think of Dick Van Dyke – I think of how his PSA saved my sister’s life! By the way – as for good movies – Argo!

    • I’ve admired and respected him all my life and now, Lisa, you’ve given me another reason to do so. Great story! Thanks for sharing.
      I’m eager to see Argo and hope to soon, when I’m not so busy. Thanks for the head’s up!

  4. What a nice read and nice synopsis. I am a book worm, one who usually has two books going at once. I love books, I mean this with all truth love them won’t even switch to electronic for my real reading because I truly love BOOKS. What I generally will do is have something either SciFi, Crime, Mystery or Historical Fiction going and then also have something Sociological or Philosophy going. I keep one in my car for reading and one by my bedside.

    Right now I am reading a SciFi trilogy that is quite good called the Exile Chronicles and I am reading When I was a Slave.

    • Valentine, How wonderful that you’re able to read such a nice variety of books. I, too, like different genres. Now, all I need is a little discipline so I can sit down with a good book and read! 🙂

  5. I watched Grey Gardens on the way home from Great Britain. Loved it.
    Monica, I love the unique movies & books you read…I also love that I know some of them!! Xxxx Keep Reading. Keep Writing.

  6. Monica, this deserves a big “yay”! And you know I don’t say “yay” often! Congratulations, chica! Another book under your belt and quite a number of films. I don’t know where you get the time or the energy, my friend. I need to follow your example and read, or should I say, finish the three books I started more than a year ago. I find myself wishing that either I had less to do, or that the day was longer. Either works for me. But since I don’t see any of that happening, I shall live vicariously through you! 🙂

    • Yes, I’m making a lot of headway on the films, Bella. The books? Not so much. But, it sure has been fun trying. Maybe for the next 35 books I’ll read the entire Dr. Seuss collection. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  7. I read a book a day when I was at the beach. Sure, they were easy reads – mystery, suspence, romance, memoirs. But it felt so good to pamper myself in that way. In real life it just isn’t possible. I haven’t the memoir on Dick Van Dyke, but I may after this review. It sounds like you really enjoyed it.

    • Books and the beach go hand in hand, Renee. You make me pine for a warm summer day with nothing to do but read. How sweet the taste of words pouring forth beneath a shining, shimmering sun. How divine!

  8. Last month I finished Tolstoy’s “War & Peace,” a major undertaking. I had to print out a list of all the major characters because it was difficult to keep some of the names straight, at least at the beginning. It was such a great and wonderfully enriching reading experience. Next up is “Pride & Prejudice.” Last movie I saw was “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which I saw twice, but that was quite a while ago. I want to see “Hotel Transylvania,” looks like a lot of fun.

  9. Stop it! I’m getting haunted everywhere by reading, reading, books, books, books, books…..HAH! 🙂

    Congrats really.

    And I better stop searching for blogs and get to my books!

  10. I just started reading books again, after mostly researching and reading blogs and blog information. I so looooveee a good book! Can’t wait to read yours!

  11. I’m having the opposite problem Monica. I have no problem keeping up and am on track for 50 books this year, but am way behind on the film side. And now I’ll have to delay that even further cuz you convinced me that I need to read about Dick van Dyke, too!

    • So you’re the one I’m jealous of, for your knack, commitment to reading so many books. My hat’s off to you, Susan. I truly applaud you. I’m sure if you read Dick’s book, it would take you a day or two, and not an entire month like it took me. Yikes!

  12. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my reading while renovating my house and continuing to write. Thanks for the motivation to keep plugging away and for the memories of Dick Van Dyke. I love that show!

  13. Sounds like a wonderful biography… I’ll have to pick it up!

    I haven’t seen many movies lately since I’m not at home and I’m not reading anything right now, but I’m listening to a recorded book while I travel, The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling.

      • It’s a different experience listening, but so far I’m enjoying it. The actor who reads is very good and I’ve finally figured out who everyone is. Interesting characters, but, of course, very different from the HP series.

  14. Ahhhhh books, Monica. You know how I feel about them. I have taken a Goodreads challenge to read 80 books by the end of the year …. Sigh!!! I have only managed 15. I am nowhere near my goal, oh well, I’ll keep trying. Movies, now… that I can do. I have watched Wrath of the Titans- um, I have a slight obsession with Greek mythology. My very favorite ‘The Holiday’ – love Jude Law and Kate Winslet. BBC’s ‘Persuasion’ with Rupert Penry Jones. My Life so Far – Colin Firth – what? I never blogged about it, you know, I completely forgot. It was a lovely little film.
    I love Dick Van Dyke. His accent wasn’t great in Mary Poppins and I understand the difficulty, I will forever love him in that. I also loved him on Diagnosis Murder, and I think his chemistry with Mary Tyler Moore was so lovely.
    One of your readers, Robert, has mentioned a Colin Firth film – Relative Values, have you see it? I know it was done in 2000 and has Julie Andrews in it, I have to see it now…

    • Wow! You sound like me! Must say re Van Dyke’s British accent, I didn’t even notice it was bad. I think he’s such a nice, happy fellow, that stuff like that doesn’t bother me. At least, he tried. In the book, he acknowledges it was bad though. So when they offered him a role in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he said he’d take it on the condition they let him speak in “American.”

      • I do remember Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I would love to see it again. I know what you mean, Dick Van Dyke is lovable, plain and simple. I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I was picky( I’m weird that way) about the accent. I love that he acknowledges it – how cool is he? Apparently, our Colin plays an American in The Gambit( I think) and his accent is not so good – yikes. Did he just want the challenge I wonder…

      • Is The Gambit a new film? When’s it supposed to come out? I’m nervous to hear his American accent. Don’t know why, but I would think the American accent is harder to do. I just want him to succeed and be amazing in whatever role he takes! 😉

      • Me too, me too. I always see him as the quintessential Englishman, so it is very difficult to think of an American accent. It is a new film and they said something about a late Nov. release date, we will have to wait and see. I am anxious too.
        Am working on a post for Race 2012 as I reply you.. boy! that debate was interesting and then I hear the analysis, it irritates me somewhat when they don’t say it like it is.

  15. Hi Monica.

    I like Dick Van Dyke even though his English accent in Mary Poppins was terrible.

    Managed some films in the last month and a some books.

    Films were:-

    Outsourced (Todd Anderson & Ayesha Dharker)
    Relative Values (Colin Firth)
    The Holiday (Cameron Diaz & Kate Winslet)
    Two weeks Notice (Hugh Grant & Sandra Bullock)
    Country remedy (Cameron Bancroft & Bellamy Young)

    Also revisited A Good Year (both the book and the film)
    Also The film The Station Agent (Patrica Clarkson & Peter Drinklage)

    Plus read the following
    Fifty Shades of Grey. I read all three in the series over three days.
    On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.
    The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry
    Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson

    A fair cross section there. All watched on and downloaded to th iPad, it has made a big difference to my working and viewing habits since I have had it.

    Far more than I would normally read or watch but find when the creative mind stops creating an hours read of a book can work wonders.

  16. LOVE Dick Van Dyke and would love to read this. I saw him on a talk show recently and he just makes me feel happy. My fav movie with him is Mary Poppins. I used to read voraciously but like you, find it difficult to finish a book these days. Plus, it seems every book I start is not one I WANT to finish. The last really good book I read was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and that was over a year ago!

  17. I love reading, but I think I’d find it hard to read a set number of books in a certain amount of time — especially while I’m working. Goals are fine (we all need them), but something like this evokes memories of high school, which I’d rather forget! The last book I read was a “how-to” writing book — nothing too dramatic, but certainly informative!

    • I know what you mean, Debbie. I almost didn’t do it because it was daunting. But then I decided to do it for that very reason. Of course, I was right. It was daunting. But, it’s made a lot of fodder for my posts. 😉

  18. As you know from reading my last post, I love Dick Van Dyke, if only because my dad looked so much like him. I love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, especially.
    I’m a big reader, but I agree that 50 books a year is a lot for a really, really busy person who doesn’t have a lot of time to read.

    • Kathy, when I was reading your post about your father and saw the photos of him and Van Dyke, side by side, I immediately noticed the similarity. But I also, wanted to tell you how I was working on a post about Dick Van Dyke and couldn’t wait to share it with you. I’ve seen every single episode of his old show and consider him to be a major part of my childhood.

Comments are closed.