Reeling Through Life

How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies

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Book Description

Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies looks at how film shapes identity. Through ten cleverly constructed essays, Ison explores how a lifetime of movie-watching has, for better or worse, taught her how to navigate the world and how to grapple with issues of career, family, faith, illness, sex, and love.

Cinema is a universal cultural experience, one that floods our senses with images and sounds, a powerful force that influences our perspective on the world around us. Ison discusses the universal aspects of film as she makes them personal, looking at how certain films across time shaped and molded who she has become. Drawing on a wide ranging catalog of films, both cult and classic, popular and art-house, Reeling Through Life examines how cinema shapes our views on how to make love, how to deal with mental illness, how to be Jewish, how to be a woman, how to be a drunk, and how to die with style.

Rather than being a means of escape or object of mere entertainment, Ison posits that cinema is a more engaging form of art, a way to slip into other identities and inhabit other realities. A way to orient oneself into the world. Reeling Though Life is a compelling look at one popular art form and how it has influenced our identities in provocative and important ways.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

"I have thought of [moviegoing] as a fairly passive endeavor until Tara Ison's insightful essay collection, Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies, made me realize that the movies I loved had marked me, perhaps in ways I had not realized, and that I shared some of the sensibility she had so smartly articulated in this book." --Chicago Tribune Editor's Choice

"[B]reathless and impassioned, Ison shows how and when her favorite on-screen characters and stories synchronized with her own life, or, more often than not, failed to do so. It's possible that film buffs may not appreciate her breezy approach to cinematic history, but I found it delightful. Rather than a seminar, Ison's book has the feel of a dinner party, where the hostess tries out voices, does impressions, acts out whole scenes and plots." --LA Review of Books

"Is that a soundtrack I hear? My reading life this winter has somehow become a ticket to a film-ish book festival. I'm not talking book-to-film adaptations, but works in which movies and Hollywood play a prominent role.
The realization hit me while reading Patton Oswalt's wonderful Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film, and was confirmed by Tara Ison's Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies. "Movies have gotten under my skin, formed my perceptions, influenced the choices I've made," Ison writes. "I've learned how to live at the movies, from the movies; I am who I am because of movies, and, to some degree, all the other movie freaks out there are, too." As am I." --Shelf Awareness

"From the co-writer of Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead comes the blend of memoir and cultural observations about big life moments and the film that guide us through them." Oprah Magazine

"This is well written, absorbing, and thought provoking, with a highly creative approach to memoir and also to film as it relates to our collective culture." --Library Journal

"Ison is keenly aware of how cinema's massive power molds us, teaches how to love, to drink, and to die....Confessional, honest, and humorous, Reeling through Life is an engrossing memoir and a guide to essential film..." --Booklist

"Novelist and screenwriter Ison (A Child out of Alcatraz, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead) delivers an innovative blend of film criticism and literary memoir in this absorbing collection of 10 essays....The result is powerfully universal, and the author's writing is at once intellectually razor-sharp and poetic as she delves into the most complex of emotions....These essays, combining cultural criticism with deeply personal reflections on love, religion, family, and the nature of art, offer brilliant analysis and food for thought for film aficionados and casual fans alike." --Publishers Weekly

"Like a great film retrospective, Ison's gorgeous essays flicker and dazzle with nostalgia; her shimmering prose and astute, provocative insights surprise and delight. But it's in her courage to rack focus, turning her personal life inside-out, that elevates this book into a profoundly moving, revelatory whole." -- Neil Landau, author of 101 Things I Learned in Film School

"Essential and completely identifiable reading for any film lover. Tara Ison writes about movies and life the way Stephen King can write about horror --with an encyclopedic knowledge of both." --David Koepp, screenwriter, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man

"Tara Ison's Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies is unforgettable - a must read for anyone who loves movies. In an exquisite blend of memoir, criticism, and cultural observation, this luminous collection engages readers' hearts, minds, and intellect the way that only the best movies - and the best storytellers - can. Ison masterfully showcases how movies shape and guide us; how they move and empower and embolden us; how they help us learn how to be, above all, human." --Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World

"In Reeling Through Life, Tara Ison fashions a marvelous alchemy, giving cinematic sweep to the challenges in her life --some of them recognizable and very funny, some of them not and damned hard --while finding instructive nuggets in an array of iconic films to help make sense of the daily stuff we'd like to leave, if only we could, on the cutting room floor. The result is a brave yet buoyant personal story, told with grace and wit and not a hint of self-pity. - Douglas Bauer, author of What Happens Next?: Matters of Life and Death, Winner of the 2014 PEN/New England Book Award for Non-Fiction.

"Tara Ison's Reeling Through Life is the most enjoyable, intelligent, sharp-eyed, and intensely personal account I've ever read of how movies help to make us who we are. It's as stirring as Norma Rae's union sign, as seductive as Mrs. Robinson's leopard-skin coat." -- Matthew Goodman, bestselling author of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

"Tara Ison's passion for the movies shines in every essay in Reeling Through Life, as she gleans life lessons from the movies she's fallen in love with. By turns hilarious, poignant, and outrageous; always profound and beautifully written." --Hallie Ephron, author of Night Night, Sleep Tight