The Book of the Film of the Story of My Life by William Brandt

The Book of the Story of My Life by William Brandt

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 320 pages, 2002

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: It’s a fun title, isn’t it?

Synopsis: Frederick Case is starting to notice that his life just might be as much

of a flop as the movies he tries to produce. His career is washed up and he spends hours a

day reading dreadful movie scripts; his wife, Sophie, left him for her gorgeous costar after

a racy movie scene; and he’s spending money – his parents’ money – faster than he could ever

hope to recoup it. So where does a man go from there? Is it time to hang up the towel, or

can Frederick find it in him to take a cue from Hollywood and make a final Herculean effort to change his life?

Why you should read this book: Although Brandt is a New Zealander, he’s clearly

found his roots in the dark, dry and sarcastic sense of humour that the British do so well –

if you share it, you’ll most likely have a few laughs. While in a rather depressing

situation, Frederick is more likely to poke fun at himself than curl up in a ball and cry.

Although this is a relatively light book, Brandt is clearly a talented writer with the literary ability to take scenes and characters to a higher level than a lot of other contemporary authors. Frederick and the other characters are enough fun to keep

you cemented to the book until you turn the final page.

Why you should avoid this book: The problem with this book doesn’t lie in the

writing, it rests in the plot. Brandt’s writing style is just too good to be wasted with a

trite plotline such as this. He starts off as ferociously funny as Martin Amis in his novel

Money but ends up in the adequate-but-not-quite-fabulous realm of Nick Hornby,

bloke-lit, and the mandatory happy ending. The writing being ‘too good’ may seem like

an odd complaint, but it’s almost physically painful to watch talent being wasted – the ache for something better is just too strong.

Brandt has the potential to jump from good to great with an edgier, no-holds-barred kind of

plot, and it would be a shame if he continued on his current path rather than trying to take

his writing up a notch.

Opening paragraph:

‘…Frederick? Are you there? Dear?’
‘Yeah, I’m here. I’m just…’
I brace

my arm against the wall. I change weight, I try to breathe. My forehead is


Fabulous quotes:

I remember the night she bottomed out. I remember it very clearly. I came home,

it was about ten o’clock. I found Sophie on the couch. She had a bottle of gin in her lap.

Tears, T-shirt, socks. The TV was on.
‘Oh man,’ I said. ‘You watched it, didn’t

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to.
‘I told you not to watch it. Did

she win?’
She nodded.
‘Oh, shit. I told you not to watch.’ I switched the TV

off. She’d been watching the Academy Awards. That year a young, na&#239ve, slightly

overweight Australian actress trying to make it in Hollywood had been nominated for her

performance as a young, na&#239ve, slightly overweight Australian actress trying to make it

in Hollywood and she’d just been awarded best female. (She subsequently went on to a

meteoric career across the Atlantic.) It was the part Sophie had turned down the year

before. They offered it to her first, and she turned it down.
‘I want to go home.’ I

hardly recognized her voice. And I have to admit I was shocked. I’d never heard talk like

that before. For nine months, nine long months of silence, no interviews, no jobs, no

auditions, no nothing, she’d stuck it out. But that was the last straw.

‘Well, for goodness sake: do you want a sexual relationship, or don’t

‘Of course I do. I want the sex, I want the attraction. But it has to be subtle,

suggested. Back there on the bus, that was a practical demonstration. It’s a question of

‘Men with ponytails shouldn’t talk about taste.’

Also recommended: Money by Martin Amis; High Fidelity by Nick

Hornby; Man and Boy by Tony Parsons; About a Boy by Nick Hornby.

Also by this author: Alpha Male.

Fun tidbit: Brandt had a part in the movie An Angel at My Table, which is

about the life of New Zealand author Janet Frame.

Would I read more by this author? Yep. Like I said, he could be an amazing author

in the future, and if not…well, it was still a fun read.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2005

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