Causing a Scene by Charlie Todd and Alex Scordelis – A Book Review

This book reflects upon some of the most successful missions completed by Improv Everywhere, a New York based comedy group that stages harmless—though chaotic—pranks throughout the city.  Examples include (my personal favorite) an Anton Chekhov book signing at Barnes and Noble, an Olympic Trial synchronized swimming bid in the Washington Square Park fountain, and how they froze time in Grand Central Terminal.

The book is very well-organized with firsthand accounts from the actual agents who both planned and participated in the missions.  There are photographs from the events, as well as reflections.  They even went so far as to include quotes from famous figures that relate to the pranks in question.

I particularly enjoyed the writers’ style and tone.  They were very engaging and their sense of humor shined through the print.  It’s hard to convey humor through the written word, but Todd and Scordelis manage to pull it off nicely.  They even infused a few pranks within the book itself (which took me longer to spot than I care to admit)!

If you’re a fan of brilliant and victimless pranks, then I highly recommend you give Causing a Scene a try.  Believe it or not, I’d never heard of Improv Anywhere before reading this book.  Now I can’t wait to visit their website and watch the video evidence of their exploits!

Drift: Stories by Victoria Patterson – A Book Review

Drift has edge, and, in the beginning, this edge made it a breathtaking—almost dangerous—read.  However, as the book concluded, its edge started to feel forced, thus negating its overall effect.

Patterson has successfully written a captivating collection of intertwined stories taking place in Newport Beach (of all places).  Most of the stories star recurring female protagonists, and most deal with very real issues of common life, even if in an uncommon locale.   Patterson pulls no punches, and this bluntness, initially, is refreshing and creates engaging—though not necessarily likable—characters.

A photo of Patterson smiling along a beach is embedded within the back cover of Drift.  She is a normal, attractive woman with a nice smile.  Her apparent affability unconsciously biased me, and so when male-on-male oral sex, drug use, and child abuse occurs, I was shocked.  I’ve always believed it’s important to separate the artist from the art, and I’d forgotten my own cardinal rule.  Patterson has edge—real edge—in the early stages of her collection.  It was placed perfectly within the pacing and tone of her stories, and while jarring, it didn’t strike me as awkward.  Unfortunately, about three-quarters of the way through Drift, that edge began to feel forced and even a bit sensationalistic.  It drew so much of my attention that I couldn’t lose myself in the tales any longer.

Even with that being said, it’s important to note that Patterson IS a very good writer.  While I question her plot choices near the end of the book, her stories remained tight and well-written throughout.  She has an excellent sense of pace and delivery, and her sentences flow with ease.  In other words, no matter what the subject, this is a person who KNOWS how to write well.

Anyone interested in the short story genre would do well to read Drift.  Though mostly focused upon female protagonists, there’s absolutely no reason why a male wouldn’t also benefit from these stores—perhaps a male could even learn a thing or two from the female perspective.  Furthermore, any aspiring writers should take advantage of this author who knows how to deliver edgy stories occurring within the mostly normal aspects of real life.

Read “Independence Day,” My Short Story In This Month’s News and Views

On a Wednesday night, Selena Epting wanted nothing more than to simply get home and plop into bed after a long day’s work.  However, the next day she planned to host a birthday party for her niece, and, as would most of us, she waited until the last minute to buy the necessities.  Thus, Selena found herself in a dark, wet parking lot with a man thrusting a knife at her and suggesting inexcusable acts.  However, a hero emerges, someone ready to take on the perpetrator, but it’s not who you’d expect, and there’s no guarantee the rescue will succeed.  Furthermore, even if Selena survives the horrific encounter, how will it affect her life?

To learn of Selena’s fate, read “Independence Day” in this month’s issue of News and Views for the Young at Heart.

News & Views for the Young at Heart is a free periodical that can be found at virtually any Bloomington-Normal medical facility.  You can also pick it up at the following locations:

-Sud’s Subaru
-Busey Bank on Fort Jesse
-Kroger on the corner of Landmark and Visa
-Commerce Bank on the corner of Towanda and College
-Tuffy Muffler on Vernon
-Kmart behind Kep’s Restaurant on IAA Drive
-Eastland Mall at the main door between JC Penny and Macy’s
-Kroger on Oakland Avenue
-Jewel-Osco on Veterans Parkway
-Kroger on Main Street
-Bloomington Public Library
-Drop Off Laundry on Main Street, across from Kroger

Or, if you live in the Peoria area, secure a copy at:

-CVS Pharmacies
-Borders at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie
-Save-a-Lot grocery store in Peoria Heights
-Hospital lobbies
-Barnato Pharmacy at Cub Foods in Peoria
-Kmart in Morton
-Methodist Atrium Building in Peoria
-Peoria Heights Library

The Peoria edition is also in most doctors’ offices and pharmacies in Pekin, Morton, Chillicothe, Lacon, Farmington, Canton, East Peoria, and Eureka.

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