The first time I ever noticed a publisher disclaimer on the copyright page at the front of a book, making sure that readers knew that though Penguin (via their imprint Gotham Books) is responsible for publishing something, the ideas and content are entirely the author's, was when I cracked open Kevin Smith's Tough Sh*t for the very first time. I'm sure the disclaimer is in there in most books, right alongside the part where (for fiction) they stick the whole, everything is made up and if something seems like it's based on a real person, it's a coincidence. Somehow though, this particular disclaimer seemed stronger than most. Insistent.
Kevin Smith has a great story, and he shares it in his latest book. In Tough Sh*t, he spills all the guts about his film-making career, as well as other aspects of his life including his plans for the future. And he does it as graphically (read: vulgar) as possible while still climbing the ranks on my personal top list of writers who have fantastic diction (right up there with Lemony Snicket and George Carlin) and style.
The first, foremost, and consistent message throughoutTough Sh*t is that no matter how much the odds may be against you, if you really want to do something and you put forth all of your effort into making your dream a reality, you'll find a way. Kevin Smith makes an example of himself when he spells out his career, pretty much step-for-step, and giving us, the readers, all the footnotes on the lessons he learned along the way. It isn't a road map, nor is it a guide book. It's just a collection of his experiences and what he learned from them.
After he's done writing about his career, he lets us in on what has become his huge podcasting empire, and that he's made a decision to use his talking skills full-time after his next and final film production is over. He talks a bit about his wife, his daughter, and even his heroes. How fitting that I didn't even need to be told George Carlin is one of the biggest influences of his life and career because I can tell just by the way he expresses himself.
Tough Sh*t reminds me of George Carlin's Last Words, except Smith talks about the film-making industry and his experiences/struggles with being fat, among other things, while Carlin talks about the comic/entertainment industry and his struggles with being a recovering Catholic, among other things.
Kevin Smith talks much about his struggles with fat-ness and fat perception, emphasizes his journey from a Jersey burbs nobody to a Big Deal Dude, and somehow manages to both express intense love and affection for his wife while self-deprecating as much as possible. Though the overall message is that he's lucky to have everything he's got, and he's happy with his life, and forever in love with his wife and the sex life they enjoy, there's this weird sub-message that he feels like he doesn't deserve any of these amazing things. Then he kind of spins that on its head with the encouraging, "if a fat, lazy dude like me could do it, so can you." I spent a big chunk ofTough Sh*t feeling like he was sitting across from me telling me his story himself (that's how it reads), and simultaneously disappointed that he really wasn't, and I couldn't give him a friendly hug every time I felt like it was the right moment for one.
Though devout followers of Smith who listen to his shows regularly, watch all his movies, and try to keep up with him on Twitter probably know most of the stuff that's in this book already, it's still a worthwhile read, and it's nice to have it all in one place. It's worth your time and attention, especially because Smith delivers powerful, overwhelmingly positive messages to anyone who can relate to him. All you need is a dream and the strong will to see it through.
As I mentioned before, Tough Sh*t is vulgar. But Kevin Smith doesn't drop the curses for lack of a wide vocabulary. It's just the way he talks. If you're not into dirty words-- if it really makes you feel uncomfortable, this isn't the book for you (or maybe it is, if you're trying to become okay with dirty words). Smith is candid and he writes in a way that's easy to follow and understand, but the book title is a blatant indicator of the kind of language you'll be seeing from start to finish. Well, actually, I lied. It's an understatement of the kind of language you can expect while reading. The only reason I even have to make a point about this is because I know a lot of my readers come for young adult or generally all-ages reviews.
Readers do not need to be familiar with Smith or his work in order to benefit from or enjoy reading Tough Sh*t because he doesn't alienate anyone. Though it helps to be aware of his work, Smith does a great job of explaining everything in concise detail so nothing is ever left out or left up to the audience to infer. So, if you only vaguely remember seeing Clerks forever years ago or kind of remember Chasing Amy or just happened to have read a headline about Kevin Smith being "too fat to fly" a couple years back, don't sweat it. Just enjoy the ride.
I recommend this book to older teens and adults who enjoy memoir/autobiographical narratives. It's creative, concise, and for the most part, flows well. If you're a film nerd or just like learning about the entertainment industry in general, you'll probably enjoy this, too.
Tough Sh*t was first published in March of 2012 and is widely available in various formats.