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Consumed With Hate: Keep Moving

🕺 I Like To Move It, Move It...

The Crime: Keep Moving: And Other Truths About Living Well Longer
The Guilty Party: Dick Van Dyke
Overview: The more you learn about Van Dyke's personal life, the more he comes off as a gigantic douche.

Why I Hate It...

I have a lot of affection for Dick Van Dyke. I grew up watching Mary Poppins and reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. (Yes, especially the walnut episode!) So I borrowed this from the library expecting it to be charming and familiar and warm and fuzzy--like a favorite bedtime story as narrated by Morgan Freeman. Ostensibly a how-to guide for the nonagenarian, I thought it would secretly be a blend of philosophy and memoir with a dash of the self-deprecating humor and unflinching geniality that was the core of his appeal as a young actor.

What I got instead was rambling Hallmark-channel dreck, overwrought and presented in seemingly random order with such wide-eyed sincerity that it begins to slip into self-parody. Is this... is this a book that he expects adults to read and enjoy? Between spinning yarns about his life we get... I almost want to call them skits, including such gems as That Old Senility set to the tune of The Bear Necessities--which he obligingly sings for the audiobook. We get a grade card of historical events in Van Dyke's lifetime. Spoiler alert: Hitler, the Kennedy assassination, and the 9/11 attacks each got an F. It's like a Jackson Pollock painting of saccharine anecdotes and painfully unfunny "jokes" disguised as folksy wisdom.

There is no progression or organization of thought, so anything that feels vaguely like a theme or memorable factoid shows up repeatedly and without warning. The text is somehow both stilted and overwritten. Prose problems range from mere redundancy--"...the daily routines that filled her days" and "I wasn't just surprised, I was in shock"--to seriously clunky nonsense--"...they really want to know how I've managed to grow old without growing up, and the answer is this: I haven't grown up." There is no joke that doesn't have its punchline explained to the reader. When describing his own wedding, he ends it with " was the best wedding I've ever been to--and the best part is I was in it!" Even chapter titles like "Sit or Get Off the Pot Roast" can't go without being explicitly commented on. It's like he doesn't trust the reader to laugh in the right spots.

Which is why I spent most of an already short book wishing he would just get to the damned point already. The worst excess was the chapter where he describes the death of his long-term partner Michelle Triola. At this point, we already know that he's re-married, so that cat is out of the bag. And he starts the passage by saying that he and Triola had always assumed he would die first--so we have a pretty good idea of where this is heading. Then we get pages and pages about how they had made plans, but they didn't dwell on it, and it only made sense that she would outlive him, after all he was older and women tend to live longer than men anyway, and he had made arrangements, but it had never occurred... I was ready to tear my hair out, which is not the reaction you want when describing the tragic loss of a loved one, methinks.

Later, when Van Dyke talks about meeting his new wife, the 46-years-his-junior Arlene Silver, it's supposed to have a meet-cute feel. But if you do the math (and I did!) you realize that his fawning over her and taking her to dinner and offering her a job out of the blue all happened years before Triola died. And then it all becomes kinda skeezy. He tries to depict it as a "blossoming friendship" but the creepy-old-man vibe never goes away, especially when he talks about proposing to Silver dozens of times and her laughing because she assumes it's always a joke. It's kind of mind-boggling that he just volunteers all of this information as though it's something to be proud of. The lack of self-awareness is staggering.

I just... I don't think Van Dyke has any idea how douchey he sounds. Early on he describes seeing his wife give a belly-dancing show on his birthday. He was so taken by the music that he just got right up there on stage and danced with her. He talks about not wanting to steal the spotlight, and then describes exactly how he stole the spotlight, even doing a little improvised solo dance off to the side while his wife performed. He recounts his many successes and tragedies in that same matter-of-fact tone, eschewing context and struggles. Maybe this is genuine humility on his part, but it reads as though the man's entire life just dropped into his lap and now he's going to give you advice about how to live yours. Fittingly, near the end he shares what he understands to be the single biggest factor in living a long and active life: good genes. *headdesk*

I still like the man, and I would never begrudge anyone their honest-won success and happiness. Hell, I'm happy for him. I hope he lives another twenty years. But if you want to celebrate his life, skip this book and find some reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Next week we're going to look at the TV series that put me off the entire Star Wars franchise: The Book of Boba Fett.

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.