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Book Review: The Big Bad Book Of Bill Murray
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The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray
A Monumental Study of the World’s Greatest Actor
Paperback | Kindle
By Robert Schnakenberg
Quirk Books
Release date: September 15, 2015

A great, small coffee table tome has just been released called The Big, Bad Book of Bill Murray, touting and lauding all things about (who else?) Bill Murray, the comedy monarch who has endeared himself to scores of generations with his snappy, sloppy, and slick persona through films such as Meatballs, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Stripes, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation, What About Bob, The Life Aquatic, and scores of others, right up to the upcoming Rock the Casbah this Autumn. And like the man itself, this full-color paperback from Quirk Books is sprawling, unconventional, hilarious, and wonderful.

Like Woody Allen in a way, where the image we see on screen is burned into our retinas and consciousness where we feel we have seen what the man is like off-camera in real life, the same goes with our perception of Murray. Murray’s character, his popular persona, the slovenly, get-outta-here kind of smart aleck one step ahead of everyone else kind of individual is evident in every one of his films, regardless of his character’s social station, financial status, or attitude within that film. We feel that the man on screen is the man off-screen; that Murray at the grocery store, the car wash, paying a bill, ordering a dish at a restaurant, getting his luggage at the airport, wherever he may be or what he is doing, is chock full of one liners, zings, sarcastic barbs, and a smarmy charm that is effervescent like a rich ale from a top of the line dime store liquor establishment. However, the reality, as purported by this book — which attempts the gargantuan task of trying to both mythologize and personalize the man in one fell swoop, and does so rather successfully — appears to be more complex and possibly even more far-fetched than one might think on a face value level.

Bill Murray in Ghostbusters

Done in an A to Z style of Murray minutiae, which showcases the best and in essence the worst of the actor, warts, pocks and jewels in all, The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Monumental Study of the World’s Greatest Actor is just that: bad in the urban slang sense and big. It’s a volume which champions and even presents round-the-clock information from all four corners of the galaxy about one of the medium’s great comic dynamos in a bright style and fun, easy-to-read manner.

There’s so much chocked (choked?) in here that one will spend hours, days, even months at a time perusing through it. With an incredible array of photos — which cover all the aspects of Murray’s world and career, spanning almost 45 years now to date — impressive design, and various forms of typeface and fonts to keep the reader engaged, and crammed to the hilt with excerpts and textural sound bites from a sundry amount of excerpted Murray interviews from various sources, and testimonials and interviews by friends and colleagues, it all culminates and creates its own kind of Murraypedia for the ages if you will.

The layman reader or the biggest Murray zealot will find some sort of informational nugget to whet one’s appetite regarding the man, from his aversion to having an agent (he actually has his own 800 number in which he fields film offers) and to the reason of not having bodyguards or signing autographs, to his disappointments with the Academy Awards to life on Saturday Night Life and in his many memorable film productions. There are literally hundreds of other facts in the book as well, all of which are nicely housed in sections such as “Tales From Murrayland,” in which scores of standout tales about the man are interspersed throughout the book. There are breakdowns of his films, complete with star ratings and jam packed with facts and anecdotes. It’s a true testimonial to the extremely exhaustive and painstaking research that went into the project by author Robert Schnakenberg such as this, but to the genuine article, it’s something that he himself might have simply said, that all this pomp and circumstance and celebration to sum up his life and career, and paraphrasing something his gleefully neurotic Carl Spackler character once said in Caddyshack, is that ultimately, “It’s no big deal.”

Caddyshack Bill Murray Dalai Lama scene

But it is. Even if the public persona and perception that we have of Bill Murray of a man who seemingly takes every moment of his life with a sort of lazy zeal, a perfunctory zest in which he appears to go through the motions of his career on the surface and can’t be bothered, we as fans certainly can and do. The passion for Murray runs higher than Mt. Everest, even if it seems that the man himself couldn’t give a lick about any of it. Murray seems as if he’d rather down a couple of beers watching the New York Knicks basketball team in Madison Square Garden than watch the sunrise over Sunset Boulevard while at a gala party dressed to the nines in a tux, celebrating the premiere of any of his great cinematic excursions. But for us, the audience, we can’t get enough of the man, his work, his persona, his comedy, and his art, just the perfect reason why The Big, Bad Book of Bill Murray works and works splendidly. Like those flowers he sloppily and expertly took care of while grabbing the tablecloth from the table in the ballroom during that chaotic scene in Ghostbusters, and luckily for us who relish that man and all he does, “The Bill Murray, is still standing.”

Rock the Kasbah Bill Murray

To have the man himself sum it up when he talks about art and plenty of other things in a section in the back of the book in The Big, Bad Book of Bill Murray called “The Quotable Bill Murray,” he says rather succinctly and for him in a way obviously, “It’s hard to be an artist, it’s hard to be anything, it’s hard to be.” To the rest of the world, he probably has no clue or maybe even cares, and that’s what is so essential to Bill Murray’s continuing charm, of how grateful we are for all that hard work he puts in to all of those projects he does, time and time again.

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray cover Quirk Books

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