In the first chapter of Tom Hanks’ book The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, we’re introduced to writer Joe Shaw and a famous movie producer Bill Johnson.
The producer asks Shaw “What films do you hate—walk out of? Why?”
Shaw says, “I don’t hate any films. Movies are too hard to make to warrant hatred even when they are turkeys. It will be over soon enough. Walking out of a movie is a sin.”
This reviewer also feels similarly about books. Too write them is hard, “even when they are turkeys.” This book took forever to get through roughly the first 200 pages and this editor felt that it will not “be over soon enough.”
Hanks’ book, which actually takes off on page 188 and is worth reading, should be examined through the man’s acting, and Knopf’s lack of editing.
Tom Hanks is probably one of this generation’s greatest actors. When a good actor steps on a stage or film set, they come as the character. They have done their homework and fleshed out everything about the person they are playing. They know the character’s favorite color, childhood, even the kind of food that character will or will not eat—they have the back story.
It seems that Hanks approached this book the same way he would an acting role. Every character’s back story is examined and written about, from the producer’s to assistants’ to makeup people, to the reason the movie script was written.
With that attention to the “back story,” readers lose track of the story, of the main character – and on almost every page there are footnotes. It is tedious.
The New York Times wrote in a May 8 review (“Nice Guy Meets Iron Man in the First Novel by Tom Hanks: Whimsically chronicling the creation of a marvel-style movie”) The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece sags under a deluge of detail.”
The Times reviewer gives examples, “The word ‘coffee’ appears, by my count, on 85 pages: triple espressos from a Di Orso Negro machine with frothed half-and-half for Mac-Teer; HaKiDo with oat milk for OKB; Pirate drip for a Teamster named Ace Acevido. Highly specific smoothies are fetched; catering tables are lovingly inventoried.”
The Times review concluded “Encountering a vintage Smith-Corona Sterling, Johnson’s chosen instrument, on Page 96 of ‘Masterpiece,’” I rolled my eyes tolerantly.
“After turning 50 pages more and finding a minor character selling ‘Royals, Underwoods, Remingtons, Hermes, Olivettis, all in working order,’ as if in an Etsy shop, I had to fight a strong urge to close the book, fire up a triple espresso and see if anything was happening in the tiny palace of my iPhone.”
The CTN editor understands that sentiment, as I continued to struggle through the first 187 pages of Masterpiece. Reading Moby Dick, which is about the same length as this novel, was far more entertaining.
Then I hit page 188 of Masterpiece and there was a story, and it was fun to read. The second-half of the book is a first-rate explanation of how movies are made.
Here’s what I recommend, read the first chapter to meet the producer, and then skip to page 188, when the book focuses on the main characters and the actual filming of the movie inside the book Knightshade: The Lathe of Firefall.
Hanks talks about how producers get rid of actors that aren’t cooperative. He speaks about the actor’s wife, who isn’t pleased that her husband may be falling in love with the star. How does the producer deal with unhappy spouses? Really interesting because one feels it’s based on Hanks’ experience on film sets.
The real problem with this book is the editing. In acknowledgments, Hanks thanks his editor Peter Gethers and other folks at Knopf—Morgan Hamilton, Rita Madrigal, John Gall and Anna Knighton.
Shame on these people, were they too awestruck to help a first-time author? Editing means helping the writer best sell the story they’re trying to tell.
Editors add, delete and rearrange information. By way of Hollywood gossip, Hanks is agreeable to work with. He singlehandedly tried to save Village Books on Swarthmore. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who wouldn’t have welcomed some suggestions.
Fiction should not be tiresome like the beginning of this book. Just when a reader thought they knew the main character he/she disappeared, and a new person and his/her “back story” was introduced. . . and the footnotes—this editor has read medical journal reports with less footnotes.
Where were the editors? Maybe they were hoping they would be invited to a showing of Hanks’ next movie and didn’t want to upset him? These editors did not do this first-time novelist any favors.
The book can be purchased in Pacific Palisades at Collections Antiques and Books at 15326 Antioch Street.