Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Biography of Phil Hartman

You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil HartmanYou Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman by Mike Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are not familiar with the works of Phil Hartman, I pity you.

No, seriously, I do.  “Genius” is most definitely a term that gets tossed about too frequently when describing those who excel in the arts, especially those whose light is snuffed out much too soon.  But Hartman was, undoubtedly, a master of his craft.  And his demise was far too tragic and far too soon.

Other than admiring much of his work and being shocked and saddened by his death, I really knew little about Phil Hartman.  In his new biography of Hartman, Thomas presents Phil as well-rounded and complex.  Nuance is not replaced with a veneer of perfection or a caricature of dysfunction, as so often can be the case in biographies—especially those with the aspect of sordid tragedy.  Instead, Thomas seeks to give the reader a genuine look at a real person.  This leaves the reader with a sincere affection for Phil the person and causes the tragic ending of his life to be felt that much more.

A surprise for me about this work is that it did not seem overly back-heavy.  While the murder-suicide casts a shadow over the whole work(whether in the work itself or in the mind of the reader, it is hard for me to distinguish), this is not a “famous murder let’s make a book out of it” paperback that makes an appearance far, far too often.  This is an honest portrayal of a fascinating and tragic life and offers insight into the lives around him as well.

This is a tragic book.  There is a feeling of watching a tragedy slowly unfold before your eyes with the knowledge of how it will end plus the angst of being utterly impotent to effect any change.  It was sad to me to read how unprepared for eternity the Hartmans were and many of those connected to Hartmans still are.  As much laughter as Phil Hartman brought in his life and career, his death brought that much pain and sadness-even to those of us on the periphery.

If you are an SNL fan, this is a work for you.  If you are a fan of a good story, this is a book for you.  If you are a Phil Hartman fan (which, again, you should be), this is most definitely a book for you.

*I received a review copy of this book.

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