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The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World's Finest Actor Paperback – September 15, 2015
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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“The 271-page tome is an alphabetical guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the eccentric actor, and it's a pretty absorbing read even if you are ambivalent about Murray and his quirks.”—Washington Post
“Schnakenberg, a huge fan, does a great job of collecting some great snarky quotes and wacky trivia facts about one of America’s most beloved comedic actors.”—The New York Post
“Bill Murray is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma—but the key is [The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray]”—Flavorwire
“The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of The World's Finest Actor promises to be so enthralling, so rich with anecdotes and life-changing koans of wisdom, that literature as we know it may be separated into two distinct segments in the future: ‘Before BBBoBM’ and ‘After BBBoBM.’”—Thrillist
“For the guy who likes to think he’s the president of the Bill Murray fan club, this will be his most prized possession.”—Real Simple
“This resoundingly successful work offers a unique approach to an unapproachable figure.”—Library Journal, starred review
“It’s perfect for the Murrayphile on your list and, let’s be honest, you have at least one of those.”—YAHOO! Movies
“Of all the coffee table books in all the world, this will be read the most.”—Brit + Co
“...sprawling, unconventional, hilarious, and wonderful.”—Geeks of Doom
“The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray is unquestionably as definitive as it gets. Read it to your friends at a party or read it by yourself in the bathroom. No matter how you approach Schnakenberg’s work, you will be both edified and regaled.”—Pop Matters
“...as multi-faceted as Bill Murray.”—The Freelance-Star
“Bill Murray is an American Treasure. With The Big Bad Book Of Bill Murray fans of all ages are treated to an encyclopedic examination of the actor, his roles, his co-stars and his odd antics.”—Alive
“If you’re a fan of the man… you’ve got to grab yourself a copy of The Big Bad Book of Billy Murray. Now.”—GeekDad
"For Murray fans, this appears to be the ultimate resource on the eccentric comic/actor.”—Bucks County Courier Times
“A comprehensive compendium on the life and career of the enigmatic and contradictory Bill Murray.”—Shelf Awareness
“The perfect gift for the Murray-phile...”—Monsters and Critics
“Fans of actor and comedian Bill Murray can revel in The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnakenberg.”—Erie Times-News
About the Author
Robert Schnakenberg has written more than a dozen books about American history and pop culture. His three favorite Bill Murray movies are Rushmore, Lost in Translation, and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, but his favorite Bill Murray character is the host of Saturday Night Live’s ¿Quién Es Más Macho? For the record, he believes Ricardo Montalbán es más macho. He lives in New York City.
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I'll start with the good. Quirk Books did a fantastic job with this. The layout, the photography, and how it all came together is a work of art. It's so aesthetically pleasing you can't help but want to pick this thing up and start flipping through it. Leave it out on a coffee table and your friends will indeed ask to borrow it...and possibly never return it. The publisher really came through on their end. I also can't deny that—at it's high points—it's one helluva read. I won't spoil anything, but Bill Murray is one of the most interesting people to ever work in film. Eccentric doesn't even begin to cover it.
Here's where the problems start. Aside from aesthetics and content, this isn't really the Bill Murray book you're expecting and probably not the one you want, either. The author tells you that up front: Bill Murray had nothing to do with this book. It's assembled from articles, quotes, and interviews with people that knew Bill in one capacity or another—but Bill himself had no actual involvement. Nothing hugely revealing or new is brought to the table. Most of the information is already out there on the interwebs, but I can't help but admit it's nice to have all that information in one beautiful package.
So here's where things get super dicey: the format. This book is put together like a Bill Murray encyclopedia—hence, not chronologically—which gives it this horribly disjointed feel. One page you're reading about Ghostbusters, and then a few pages later you're reading about golf, and then that's followed shortly thereafter by Cary Grant. The entire thing is a jumping of topics and time periods. I wondered if some of them were even worth mentioning. Maserati is Bill's favorite brand of car. "Summer Breeze" is one of Bill's most hated songs. These two topics each have their own very short sections. One page you're reading about a movie Bill was in during 2009 and the next you're reading about a movie he turned down years previous. For someone like me who has a pretty good understanding of his career, this was a little confusing. I can only imagine how it would read to a passive fan or someone not familiar with him at all.
Lastly, Robert Schnakenberg's non-objective approach might rub some poeple the wrong way. Schnakenberg gives each Murray film two different star ratings--one for the overall movie, and another regarding just Bill. When Schnakenberg calls Scrooged "...easily the worst film in [Murray's] career," it sort of makes you question the entire system. Take the ratings at face value and watch the movies for yourself.
All in all, I don't love this book; I love the idea of it. I love what it could have been, but there are plenty of anecdotes, quotes, and other factoids to carry the reader through. This is a nice reference guide that can easily be killed in one sitting. A hardcore fan should definitely own this.
If you love Bill Murray, you will enjoy this book immensely, but you won't feel like you learned a lot about what makes him tick. That is a different type of book altogether. Still very enjoyable.
My biggest complaint is that the author chose to write his own reviews of Murray's movies instead of just list facts, trivia or quote Bill Murray and other cast/crew members about the making of the movies. This became quite clear when the author gives "Scrooged" his lowest rating and labels it as "easily the worst film of his career," which is ludicrous, seeing as one of the author's three favorite Murray movies is the Garfield sequel!
It's not a biography of Murray, nor does it purport to be, and Schnakenberg says from the start that Murray had no role in it. The author did talk to some of Murray's collaborators and acquaintances, but the vast bulk of it comes from the media archive -- past interviews with Murray and others, and reviews and articles from throughout Murray's long career. It's crafted as a sort of Encyclopedia Murraynica, with A-to-Z entries, which works quite well in that it provides a lot of detail and gives space to very minor Murray works as well as the backstories of lots of films he was almost in, but not in the end. It's like reading a book of short articles and cool trivia about a guy who is arguably the real Most Interesting Man in the World.
The chief drawback of the format is that it does not allow for content that cannot fit under a simple dictionary-style heading. Schnakenberg also has some odd entries. (There's one for the NBC sitcom "Cheers", for instance, that consists solely of an offhand remark from Murray in an ancient interview saying that he wasn't a fan of the show.) Schnakenberg also reviews every Murray film, and while he does say that these are just his opinions, he disses pretty much every other actor, usually without backing it up. The reviews are pretty facile.
Still, this was a lot of fun to read. Murray fans will get a pleasant couple of afternoons out of it. Just don't expect more than it is.