What should I read next? It’s a question we all ask ourselves time and again. Even with the countless essays, novels, screenplays, poems, and transmedia pieces to discover, to fall in love with or to detest, it can be a challenge to choose. Enter Expo Recommends, a curated selection of readings brought to you by the editors of Exposition Review.
This month, we have Expo’s Fiction and Managing Editor and Flash 405 “Fault” judge, Mellinda Hensley.
For me, this spring has been a time of transition—a kind of weirdness in motion. About two months ago, I left my job at a law firm working as a paralegal to pursue TV writing, and since then, I’ve found myself reading a litany of pieces between production assistant gigs—mostly scripts to help me brush up on different styles and techniques used by writers in the industry. But in this odd season, I’ve come across some odd books that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with and aren’t just for screenwriters. Here’s what I recommend:
The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell (Non-Fiction/Memoir)
If you haven’t seen the piece of cinematic genius that is The Room, do yourself a favor and subject your eyeholes accordingly. This film is truly something special, a kind of train wreck on film so engrossingly bad, you can’t look away. The film’s plot is incredibly simple: Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is in love with his fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who is in love with Tommy’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). A love triangle ensues, footballs are thrown, Lisa tears Tommy apart. But the entire time I was watching I had to wonder, “How did this enema of a movie get made?”
Well thanks to Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, I don’t have to. Enter The Disaster Artist, a book that recaps the entire process of making The Room and the unlikely, absurd friendship between Sestero and the discount Fabio that is Tommy Wiseau. Sestero and Bissell recount how Wiseau, who has no knowledge of filmmaking, develops, produces, directs, and stars in The Room backed by a seemingly endless supply of money. The on-set recounts are an absolute disaster and though hilarious, are also injected with a twinge of delusion. To learn how Wiseau prods his crew along from point A to point B is both astounding and bizarre and definitely deserves a read.
And if that’s not enough, a film adaptation of the book called The Masterpiece is currently in the works starring James Franco as Wiseau—you’re welcome.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Fiction)
Speaking of bizarre, opening any book by Haruki Murakami is destined to be an adventure. As a writer, I should know not to judge a book by its cover, but from the moment I saw Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage sitting on the shelf, I fell in love. The brilliant design, both over and under the book jacket, plays directly into a story about Tsukuru Tazaki, a man who finds himself on the wrong end of a fall-out between himself and his four best friends. After years of lost contact, an alone and unsure Tsukuru sets out on a journey to find them and find out what went wrong.
This is an excellent story of self-discovery, laden with lines of gorgeous prose and moments of quiet contemplation. To find an author who writes loneliness well is a rare and beautiful find, and though Tsukuru’s mystery is solved long before the book ends, the spell that Murakami casts outlasts the initial intriguing premise. Though the book is not without its flat moments, the pages flew by for me, and I imagine they will for you as well.
Boy With the Halo at the Farmer’s Market by Sonia Greenfield (Poetry & A piece by an MPW alum)
I’ll be honest: poetry and I never really got along. Rarely did I read a poem that made me feel affected rather than awash in antiquated wordplay.
And then I met Sonia Greenfield.
A graduate of the MPW program, Sonia’s poetry and vivid prose captured me from the very first class we had together. Her imagery was altogether different and unlike anything I’d ever read. To me, her poetry is akin to an unfurling flower: Alive. And her collection of poems, Boy With the Halo at the Farmer’s Market, is a shining example of Sonia at her best. Winner of the 2014 Codhill Poetry Award, the collection runs the gamut of emotions: visceral to tender, eclectic to mundane, and all of it comes together in a rich work that even poetry pessimists will enjoy.
Cleaning Crew by Michael P. Adams (Stage & Screen)
I was the first person to get their hands on this piece when it showed up in the Expo slush pile, and halfway though it, I audibly gasped in a room full of readers. This short screenplay starts off with an excellent premise and a turn that brings me excitement every time I read it. The idea is original, but believable; humorous but devastating. For a journal that rarely sees stage and screen submissions (meaning that you should submit yours), Cleaning Crew was the most pleasant surprise of the “IX Lives” issue for me. Lucky for you, you can read Adams’s screenplay for free in our digital issue.