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Michael Jamin
A Paper Orchestra

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

In his debut collection of personal essays, Emmy-nominated screenwriter Michael Jamin (King of the Hill, Just Shoot Me, Beavis and Butt-Head, Wilfred, Maron, Rules of Engagement, Tacoma FD) recounts the true stories of a sensitive, anxious man searching for the things that are most important: identity, love, forgiveness, and redemption. A cross between David Sedaris and Neil Simon.
In his imminently readable debut, Jamin asks, “What if the smallest, almost forgotten moments were the ones that shaped us most?” This project, which examines such moments from his own life in a series of incisive, illuminating essays, started when Jamin, a television writer (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, Just Shoot Me, amongst others) received a disheartening call from a studio: a poem he had included in a script wasn’t considered good enough. That the poem was written by Shakespeare was of no concern to the studio. Disillusioned, Jamin withdraws into a writer’s slump until, at the behest of his wife, he writes down a list of memories and begins writing about them.

Jamin shares 18 memories in 18 chapters, told in roughly chronological order: he recalls being a child who shied away from sports, his reluctance to take a father-mandated martial arts class, and the abject terror he felt at his first lesson, looking at a bloodthirsty opponent. Jamin is a skilled writer, and his account of reluctance turning to dread turning to flat-out terror is potent. “We’ve had enough judo for a while, don’t you think?” his father eventually says, and the reader’s heart rate will return to normal. From there, Jamin covers moving to Hollywood and living at the Melrose Place; “general” meetings with studio executives; the secret life of a “spooky” neighbor; and taking dance lessons after being called out by his sister at a wedding.

The strength of Jamin’s book lies not only in his immersive conjuring of memories or his brisk, engaging storytelling and dialogue. It’s in how he deftly ties each anecdote into larger life events, revealing how “almost forgotten moments” can be substantial in their significance, even life changing. Paper Orchestra offers as many heart-tugging moments as laughs, but it will also leave readers rummaging through their own mental archives.

Takeaway: Incisive, sharply told memories from a Hollywood writer’s life.

Comparable Titles: Patty Lin’s End Credits: How I Broke Up WIth Hollywood, Susan Silver’s Hot Pants in Hollywood.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A