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August 29-September 4, 2007

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'I, California'

I, California
(By Stacey Grenrock Woods; Scribner's; 244 pages; $24 cloth)

You, make me wish I were Oregon. Name-dropping, sub-Sedarian autobiographical essays by former Woodland Hills child-actor turned ... well, something. The book climaxes with the author working herself up to play Ruthie's teacher on TV's 7th Heaven. Woods drifted through some other jobs, including The Daily Show. She had the beat where she would fly to the Midwest and interview odd ducks, such as a former Ukrainian rock star turned busboy. (The man invited her home for dinner and fed her, choke, Hot Pockets! Horrors!) Woods also posed for a Playboy pictorial that never got used and worked at the Viper Club. (She hints at some drugs and decadence too, but they are only hints.) I suppose I, California is honest. I suppose there's a genuine zinger on every page. But every page has 30 lines, and that means only something like one out of 30 lines per page is funny. Even that ratio is undercut by the way the author applauds her own wit. ("It was mean, but it was funny.") Woods is open about being shallow—"I've always been too willing to absorb into other people's minds, styles and vibes"—and so, much here is about what she wore when. While Woods is obviously more sensitive now than when she started out, the book either needed severe pruning or to be a blog instead, where the rambling wouldn't have mattered so much.

Review by Richard von Busack


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