Friday, July 10, 2015

The Book of Joan, by Melissa Rivers

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

In the Book of Joan, Melissa Rivers tells what it was like growing up with a mother who was a comedy legend. There are plenty of laughs, as you'd expect, but a great deal of warmth too.

Joan Rivers hardly needs an introduction. Her sharp, quickfire wisecracks put in her in a league of her own. Not many dared to tread where she did. She even incorporated the 9/11 terrorist attacks into her routine and miraculously made it work. What a comedy genius she was. Her legendary energy and work ethos made it seem like she would live on until at least a hundred. What a shock then that she died unexpectedly while still at the top of her game. As Melissa Rivers, her daughter, writes in this memoir, what 80 year olds do you know that run their own Twitter and Youtube accounts? Rivers seemed unstoppable.

Melissa Rivers was asked to write this memoir just after her mother's funeral service had been performed. Shocked, Melissa didn't know what to do. Then she thought of her mother, who would have said, Sell, Baby, Sell! The result is a light and breezy memoir, full of short chapters that focus on different parts of Joan Rivers' character. If you're a Joan Rivers fan, then it's unlikely you'll be disappointed. The portrait Melissa paints is of a clearly wacky, idiosyncratic mother (what else could you expect), but one that was also a devoted mother and grandmother.

A lot of Joan Rivers' legendary humour percolates throughout the book. The jokes didn't just end at the stage – her day-to-day talk was full of the same wisecracks. There was plenty in this memoir that made me laugh out loud, such as her clearly inappropriate dating advice to Melissa. Joan the person, like all of us, was full of many contradictions. She valued old fashioned manners, good grooming and bemoaned what she thought was a lack of quality in TV and film. Yet ironically her stage act was full of salty language and taboo subjects.

The Book of Joan is warm and affectionate remembrance of a one-off comedy icon by a daughter who knew her intimately.

The Book of Joan, by Melissa Rivers. Published by Viking. ISBN: 9780670078998 RRP: $32.99

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