17 October 2019

Book signing - Shea Serrano, all-around good dude

Shea Serrano is truly a renaissance man for our generation: he writes about sports for The Ringer, he's topped the New York Times Best Seller list twice with books about rap music and basketball, and his newest book discusses his love of movies.  But it's not simply a discussion of film that makes his latest work - Movies (And Other Things) - so great, but rather the way in which he presents his passion.  He's more interested in engaging in thought-provoking conversation than simply stating his views.  It's what has drawn me to his work, both in print and on social media.

I first became aware of Shea Serrano's wit through his increasingly popular Twitter account, which he uses not only to talk about sports but also to shed light on issues that have a profound effect on him.  In a time in which it's common to see naysayers tell prominent figures to "stick to (insert day job)" - sports, in Shea's case - he has used his platform to spread positivity AND encourage his followers to do so as well.  Those followers, collectively known as the "FOH Army", have embraced the philanthropic efforts Shea has put forth and done so with great pride, raising money for a group of worthwhile causes.  How refreshing to see an artist use his talents for good, and I only regret not discovering him sooner.

Earlier this month, Shea was doing a book signing at Skylight Books in Los Feliz: I had to be there!

As mentioned, Movies (And Other Things) puts a unique spin on film writing by avoiding the standard long-form analysis of the medium, opting instead for a series of movie-related questions posed by the author to precipitate insightful and often humorous discourse.  These questions - such as "Who's in the perfect heist movie crew?" and "Who gets it the worst in Kill Bill?" - are specifically designed to incite debate, based on hypothetical means while also being grounded in hard fact.  His appearance at Skylight Books was framed as an extension of the book: in a unique turn of events, Shea himself served as the moderator of his own Q&A, posing a series to questions to two of his Los Angeles-based colleagues from The Ringer (Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin, co-hosts of the Binge Mode podcast), which included "What movie lawyer would you want to defend you if you were on trial for your life?" and "Which movie death hurt you the most as an adult?"*

For nearly an hour, the three writers defended their answers with great dedication and charm, thoroughly entertaining the large crowd that had packed themselves into the cozy bookstore.  As an added bonus, the incredibly talented Arturo Torres - who has illustrated each of Serrano's books - was also in attendance, and took part in the book signing.  Charlene and I were lucky enough to have been situated not too far back in the line, as I nervously anticipated meeting these two artists.  Should I just get my book signed and move on?  Should I ask for a picture?  Should I try to start a brief conversation, and if so, on what topic?  After careful consideration, I had my answer.

The time had come and I approached the table: I assumed Shea would be spending enough time talking about movies throughout his book tour, so I opted to talk sports.  I knew that he was an avid WNBA fan and followed the Las Vegas Aces, which prompted me to ask about Dearica Hamby's insane buzzer-beater from the 2019 playoffs.  What followed was a brief but pleasant anecdote about where he was when that shot went down, and how he was glad there wasn't a camera watching him at the time.  The two men signed my book (Arturo even added a drawing), posed for a quick picture and I immediately made room for the next fan.

It was thrilling to get to hear Shea Serrano speak, and even more so to meet him and share a moment.  I can't recommend his work - and his Twitter feed - enough, and I can only hope more people discover his fantastic talents.  However, I get the feeling that may already be the case, as I learned that Movies (And Other Things) just became Shea's THIRD book to top the New York Times Best Seller list - do yourself a favor and check him out!

*While pondering what to ask Shea before having my book signed, I considered answering these two questions to see if he thought they were good choices.  His original answers during the Q&A were Elle Woods (from Legally Blonde) as the movie lawyer to defend him, and King Kong (from the 2005 Peter Jackson remake) as the death that hurt him the most as an adult.   For me, I would choose Vinny Gambini (from My Cousin Vinny) to defend me, with the death that hurt me the most being Ellie Fredricksen (Carl's late wife from the Pixar film Up).

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