Columns > Published on September 17th, 2015

Bookshots: 'The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray' by Robert Schnakenberg

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray

Who wrote it?

Bill Murray is one of the most interesting people to ever work in film. Eccentric doesn't even begin to cover it.

Not Bill Murray. The book is written by Robert Schnakenberg.

Plot in a box:

On the cover of the book it states "a critical appreciation of the world's finest actor," but this reads more like an encyclopedia. It starts with About Last Night, a movie Murray was considered for, and Zombieland, which features one of Murray's best cameos. Breaking it up are Murray-related anecdotes, quotes, and photography.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Encyclopedia Murrtanica

Read this if you liked:

Any of Bill Murray's movies or behind-the-scenes stories about Hollywood.

Meet the book's lead:

Bill "the Murricane" Murray: Ghostbuster, avid golfer, party crasher, and the hardest actor to book in town.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

I got nothin'. To even venture a guess would be offensive.

Setting: would you want to live there?

All over the world. Bill goes where Bill wants to go. It's almost as if he's on permanent vacation. I could handle that.

What was your favorite passage/sentence?

"Nothing prepared me for being this awesome..." -Bill Murray

The Verdict:

I want you guys to understand something...I'm a Bill Murray fan. I've seen the majority of his films and actively keep up with his career. All things considered, I should be the target market for this book. Just look at my shower curtain:

So when I got The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, a rare occurance happened in which I had already decided I loved the book before cracking the thing open...then slowly but surely, reality crept in.

I'll start with the good. Quirk Books did a fantastic job with this. The layout, the photography, and how it all came together is a work of art. It's so aesthetically pleasing you can't help but want to pick this thing up and start flipping through it. Leave it out on a coffee table and your friends will indeed ask to borrow it...and possibly never return it. The publisher really came through on their end. I also can't deny that—at it's high points—it's one helluva read. I won't spoil anything, but Bill Murray is one of the most interesting people to ever work in film. Eccentric doesn't even begin to cover it.

Here's where the problems start. Aside from aesthetics and content, this isn't really the Bill Murray book you're expecting and probably not the one you want, either. The author tells you that up front: Bill Murray had nothing to do with this book. It's assembled from articles, quotes, and interviews with people that knew Bill in one capacity or another—but Bill himself had no actual involvement. Nothing hugely revealing or new is brought to the table. Most of the information is already out there on the interwebs, but I can't help but admit it's nice to have all that information in one beautiful package.

So here's where things get super dicey: the format. This book is put together like a Bill Murray encyclopedia—hence, not chronologically—which gives it this horribly disjointed feel. One page you're reading about Ghostbusters, and then a few pages later you're reading about golf, and then that's followed shortly thereafter by Cary Grant. The entire thing is a jumping of topics and time periods. I wondered if some of them were even worth mentioning. Maserati is Bill's favorite brand of car. "Summer Breeze" is one of Bill's most hated songs. These two topics each have their own very short sections. One page you're reading about a movie Bill was in during 2009 and the next you're reading about a movie he turned down years previous. For someone like me who has a pretty good understanding of his career, this was a little confusing. I can only imagine how it would read to a passive fan or someone not familiar with him at all.

Lastly, Robert Schnakenberg's non-objective approach might rub some poeple the wrong way. Schnakenberg gives each Murray film two different star ratings--one for the overall movie, and another regarding just Bill. When Schnakenberg calls Scrooged "...easily the worst film in [Murray's] career," it sort of makes you question the entire system. Take the ratings at face value and watch the movies for yourself. 

All in all, I don't love this book; I love the idea of it. I love what it could have been, but there are plenty of anecdotes, quotes, and other factoids to carry the reader through. This is a nice reference guide that can easily be killed in one sitting. A hardcore fan should definitely own this.

About the author

Brandon Tietz is the author of Out of Touch and Good Sex, Great Prayers. His short stories have been widely published, appearing in Warmed and Bound, Amsterdamned If You Do, Spark (vol. II), and Burnt Tongues, the Chuck Palahniuk anthology. Visit him at www.brandontietz.com

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