Becoming Meryl Streep

Meryl StreepHer Again is an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.

Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos in a PDF, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.

THE POST was nominated for Best Picture, and Streep for Best Actress. The story is appropriate for our times for several reasons: newspapers are dying in favor of online McNews video and sound bites. Many local news stations have folded their investigative departments, and instead chase viral videos just like TMZ does. It is all about sports and weather. “Scores” (whether on the football field or killing fields) are tallied and delivered, accompanied by ads for junk food and prescription drugs. War stories and political secrets are particularly suppressed or debated, with only a few outlets like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post (along with 60 Minutes and Frontline) spending time and money to get to the truth. Disinformation and fake news attack these efforts relentlessly. Many of the movies up for Oscars were based on books. Writing, like reporting, takes work that many do not want to take in a “winner-take-all” culture. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, had this to say about it: “Factoids are clips posted to make people believe they know more than they do. The less people read, the more violent the world becomes.”


Desperate Voyage


Treasure comes at great cost: hard work, mental exhaustion, love, vision, and never giving up. Such was the life of John Caldwell, author of the sailing classic Desperate Voyage, about his sailing alone from Panama after WW2 into bad weather to get to his bride in Australia. He then had given up the normal, quiet life in LA, and set off on sailing advertures, his heart with the ocean tides. It was never an easy life, but he was never mesmerized by other dreams: money, cars, or a gold watch after a long stint at the factory or in a cubical. His dream was travel on the open ocean, in small boats, his hand on the wheel. No flash in the pan, his life was about force of will, fitness of spirit—a life spent fighting storms, invaders, his dogs at his side, his sons and wife Mary sharing his vision. Digging for treasure? No. Planting palm trees. On his island, a mosquito infested place which he bought for a song and transformed into a paradise. Over decades. Still at it, he died at 80, walking his “Highway 90,” which he told me meant “I hope for 90 years, and the devil take the rest.” The island is now an upscale resort, one of the best in the Caribbean. They say every paradise has a backstory, whoever “they” are. And not just in the Grenadines. Now imagine a Powerball winner who disappears, then discovers he has a son, and hires the tabloid writer who finds him, to fight off pirates just as John did. To buy an island. Palm Island. The Powerball winner in the shadows, out of danger, paying others to risk everything, so he can emerge rich and famous, not JUST for 15 minutes. Fame Island. Based on John’s true story. Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean was partly filmed nearby. Both books DESPERATE VOYAGE and LOTTERY  ISLAND links at




Tony DanzaUber is threatening the taxi cab industry. Competitors are threatening Uber. Stock prices fluctuate, while the public looks for the cheapest fares. Long before he starred on some of television’s most beloved and long-running series such as Taxi and Who’s the Boss? and went on to distinguish himself in a variety of film and stage roles, Tony Danza was a walking contradiction: an indifferent student who dreamed of being a teacher. Inspiring a classroom of students was an aspiration he put aside for decades until one day it seemed that the most meaningful thing he could do was give his dream a shot. What followed was a year spent teaching tenth-grade English at Northeast High — Philadelphia’s largest high school with 3,600 students. Entering Northeast’s crowded halls in September 2009, Tony found his way to a classroom filled with twenty-six students who were determined not to cut him any slack. They cared nothing about “Mr. Danza’s” showbiz credentials, and they immediately put him on the hot seat. It was only after experiencing abject terror for several weeks — and even dissolving into tears on several occasions — that Tony began to pick up the tricks of how to get kids to learn. Featuring indelible portraits of students and teachers alike, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had reveals just how hard it is to keep today’s technologically savvy — and often alienated — students engaged, how impressively committed most teachers are, and the outsized role counseling plays in a teacher’s day, given the psychological burdens many students carry. The audiobook also makes vivid how a modern high school works, showing Tony in a myriad of roles — from lecturing on To Kill a Mockingbird to coaching the football team, organizing a talent show, leading far-flung field trips, and hosting teacher gripe sessions. Interesting, heart-opening.


Most Interesting Man Speaks

movies from books

The life of an actor can be both precarious and interesting. Just ask Jonathan Goldsmith, best known as The Most Interesting Man in the World. His memoir is STAY INTERESTING, about his own interesting life as an often struggling audition seeker in that fantasy factory often described as “Tinsel Town.” Hollywood was arrived at via a Volkswagen from New York, a vehicle which died on arrival in much the same way that so many dreams die for young people seeking fame and fortune there. His subsequent homes included living on the bedbug infested couch of a future Star Trek cast member, on an unheated frog farm with the man later known as “Coach” on Cheers, and on a yacht once caught in a storm. Jobs too there were many, including hauling construction trash, painting, and being a reluctant gigolo between auditions. Westerns became his specialty as an extra, but he was killed by many stars, not just John Wayne, in being shot, drowned, blown up, machine gunned, run over, electrocuted, thrown off roofs, and hung. Memories recounted on movies and TV series include names like Fernando Lamas (a friend and business partner), Joseph Cotton, Leonard Katzman, Don Siegel, and Clint Eastwood. After decades of riding the Hollywood roller coaster, his career break came late in the game on an audition for a Dos Equis advertising campaign in which actors were asked to improvise with the ending line, “And that’s how I arm wrestled Fidel Castro.” And that’s how he later got to improvise for Obama in the Oval Office. Narrating the audiobook of his true story, Goldsmith presents an honest and surprisingly candid rumination on his life, with memories of his father, and reflections on what it all means. Now involved in charity work and advocacy, he lives in a rustic cabin with his wife and dogs, far from the “madding crowd.” As Spock would say, “fascinating.”

Tower Review: What do you like to read?  Yuja Wang: “Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Murakami…I love reading, and there are lots of authors I enjoy. Each piece I play is like a story, and the better the storyteller the more interesting it is for the artist, I think. This is not a sporting event. It’s organic, and there is always room for improvement.”

Serena Williams VS Roger Federer

Serena Williams

No, Roger Federer didn’t make a statement like John McEnroe did. He doesn’t have a new book out to promo, either. But John’s statement has people imagining Serena playing top male tennis players…what would be the score, in this case? Does it matter? There was once a “battle of the sexes” in tennis, so it might be interesting to try it again. Serena and Roger would be a great matchup. Would the players consider it? Should they? Am not a big sports fan, although I do play and follow tennis, so am wondering if fans think this is a publicity stunt. John narrates his new audiobook BUT SERIOUSLY…out the same week as his statements. Perhaps we take the statements of celebs (and sports itself) too seriously?


Processed with Rookie

Carol Burnett Wins Grammy

Carol Burnett

Congrats to Carol Burnett for winning the Grammy in the best Spoken Word album category for IN SUCH GOOD COMPANYCarol Burnett is widely recognized for her work on stage and screen, most notably The Carol Burnett Show, which was named in 2007 by Time magazine as one of “100 Best Television Shows of All Time.” A highly acclaimed actress for her comedic and dramatic roles on television, film, and Broadway, Burnett has been honored with twelve People’s Choice Awards, eight Golden Globes, six Emmy Awards, the Horatio Alger Award, the Peabody Award, and the Ace Award. She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is a Kennedy Center honoree, and has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. She is also a New York Times bestselling author.

We also recommend the new young novelist Catherine Ryan Howard, who scored well with accolades for her first novel DISTRESS SIGNALS, a suspense set on a cruise ship. And just for fun, with the upcoming Oscar Show, a throwback full cast album OSCAR’S HIJACK is a mystery with satire recommended by Audiofile and produced by Blackstone.

The Oscars



Ray & Joan by Lisa Napoli

ray-and-joanRay & Joan is a quintessentially American tale of corporate intrigue and private passion: a struggling Mad Men–era salesman with a vision for a fast-food franchise that would become one of the world’s most enduring brands and a beautiful woman willing to risk her marriage and her reputation to promote controversial causes that touched her deeply. Ray Kroc was peddling franchises around the country for a fledgling hamburger stand in the 1950s—McDonald’s, it was called—when he entered a St. Paul supper club and encountered a beautiful young piano player who would change his life forever. The attraction between Ray and Joan was instantaneous and instantly problematic. Yet even the fact that both were married to other people couldn’t derail their roller coaster of a romance. To the outside world, Ray and Joan were happy, enormously rich, and giving. But privately, Joan was growing troubled over Ray’s temper and dark secret, something she was reluctant to publicly reveal. Those close to them compared their relationship to that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And yet, this volatility paved the way for Joan’s transformation into one of the greatest philanthropists of our time. A force in the peace movement, she produced activist films, books, and music and ultimately gave away billions of dollars, including landmark gifts to the Salvation Army and NPR. Together, the two stories form a compelling portrait of the twentieth century: a story of big business, big love, big betrayal, and ultimately big giving by Joan.

The audiobook version is narrated by the author, Lisa Napoli.


Jenn Morris is a voiceover talent. Would you like her advice on reading for a living? Would you like to try it yourself, first? See About at this new blog for details.