Book review: 'Where's My Wand?'
If you love the theatre, the circus and all things extraordinary, you must read Where's My Wand? Wand is the funny and touching autobiography of Fox Broadcasting's Eric Poole. But let's get one thing perfectly clear from the start. Wand is not a story for gays about being gay; it's actually a tale for everyone about growing up and finding your place in the world. From the very first page, Where's My Wand? will take you on a wild and zany ride guaranteed to put your spirits in high gear.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Poole learned early on - at the tender age of eight - that by dressing up privately in his basement as his idol the enchantress Endora from TV's Bewitched, he could find consolation in the world of magic, purely as an escape from his quarrelsome Baptist parents and from the doldrums of everyday life like brushing the shag carpeting in every room of the house - by order of his monstrously compulsive mother.
Poole has a very engaging style and infectious humor, especially with characters - his sister, teachers, family friends, you name it - he nails the essence of each and every one of them, and has the reader in stitches in the process, as we recognize the similarities to people in our own lives. Take for example the young girl without arms who stood up to bullies at school on his behalf. We may not have encountered her physical match, but her guts and strong sense of who she was ... everyone had a friend like Stacy. And then there's Aunt Jinny, the outdoorsy type that would drag you on a camping trip; she wouldn't take no for an answer. You might feel uncomfortable and inadequate around her, but in the long run you couldn't help but marvel at her selfless simplicity - and heart of gold. And then Grandma Dorothy, a chain smoker, who had unforgivable accidents that put others' lives in jeopardy , and yet somehow she deserved to be accepted and loved like everyone else, in spite of her massive flaws.
Despite the fact that being gay is not really an issue here, there is one hilarious chapter about Poole being a Royal Ambassador at his Baptist church and taking on the task of whipping one sinning boy into shape. Gays will really exult in the whole experience and how Poole attempted to make sense of it. Another delightfully absorbing segment involves trying to win back his sister Val's companionship. Val was a teenager in love, had a boyfriend over behind her parents' backs and Eric, jealous of the attention the new beau was getting, found his own magical revenge.
Obviously Poole was very shy and had a difficult time making friends. And how did he face change? You got it. Magic was the excuse. He could dress up like Endora and wave his wand. But that was only effective until ... his wishes were no longer granted and bad things started to happen - he wasn't to blame for some, but he was too innocent, immature to understand his place in it all. It took time to realize that he could function without props and to trust himself completely. There is no finer example of great writing than the last chapter. While playing the trumpet on stage in a major school concert/competition he had a mind-blowing, truly ecstatic breakthrough experience of unexpected achievement and self-worth.
Where's My Wand? is a real page turner, laced with memories of childhood - some awkward and painful, others awkward and funny - but always truthful. Actors, musicians, magicians - all artists will relate to the painstaking honesty and fun. Eric Poole truly takes his place as a major writer.
For more information, visit www.ericpoole.net.