2 out of 4 stars
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Strutting and Fretting by Kevin McKeon is about a man named Bob who is on a journey to find himself. He thought he was on the right track in life, as he already had a wife and had graduated from college with a Masters of Fine Arts for his future acting career. He lands a four-month theater job in California, but he still doubts his decisions and talents. Then, his wife leaves him, and he needs the money from this new job more than ever. He hopes to take these 4 months to truly rebuild himself, but everywhere he turns he sees nothing but his mistakes.
I couldn't connect with Bob at all. The main issue with his relationship with his wife was the fact that he never truly loved her but only married her because he felt that it was something he had to do. This doesn't mean that she was right for cheating on and leaving him, but they were not some sort of picture-perfect couple either. Bob then proceeds to spend the rest of the book sleeping around with different women and having an affair with a married woman. Basically, he does the same thing to another married man that his own wife did to him. Also, before he had the affair with the married woman, he spied on her sleeping with her husband when the two though that they were in a more private setting, and this seemed to be just downright creepy to me.
Bob has generally questionable thought processes in other parts of the story also. First, he wants to be an actor and decides to get a master's degree in an acting-related subject. Then, he does one play, and starts reconsidering his decision to become an actor. When questioning why he wanted to become an actor, he decides that the only reasons why he became an actor were because he had poor self-image and he wanted to "use the adulation I received to my advantage and make women do whatever I wanted." He claims that since he had no sister to teach him the "ways of women," he believed that they would just flock to you if you did certain things. This was one of the most ridiculous excuses for a life decision that I have ever read, and it just made me see Bob as even less of a mature adult and instead more like a hormonal teenager. Even though this book took place in the 1970's, I don't think people back then were THIS ridiculous.
Everything in this novel took place from Bob's point of view, so even the worldbuilding of it was affected in some ways. Nevertheless, the worldbuilding here was definitely my favorite part of this entire novel. I loved seeing the true lives of actors in the 70's. Even though TV and movie stars may have lived glamorous lives, actors and actresses on stage were almost like regular workers. The directors were in charge of their entire lives, and if the director made any mistakes in casting, planning rehearsals, planning shows, or any small details in between, the entire thing could be called off. This could make or break an actor just starting out without any real money of their own. It was interesting to see how much work each individual person put into all the aspects of the play. The behind-the-scenes characters weren't forgotten either. Bob even has a sequence where he talks about other actors and actresses almost treating costume and set designers like slaves, even though they were basically the backbone of the show. Without someone behind the scenes doing the "dirty work," the show would not go on.
The pacing of this book felt slow at times, and then it sped up once the characters finished the play and had to return to their old lives. The pacing wasn't a gigantic problem for me, but this random change did confuse me as I was reading.
I rated this book 2 out of 4 stars. If it hadn't been for the excellent portrayal of theater in this novel, I most likely would have given this book only 1 star. The more I read about the theatrical process, the more interested in the story I became. This truly kept me going, even though I didn't care for the main character himself. The sheer amount of detail put into the play scenes made reading this book worth it for me.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story about theatre in the 1970's, if they can stand the issues with Bob. If a person is irritated with him just by reading the above details in this review, I would not be able to recommend this story to them.
Strutting and Fretting
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