I own a lot of books on acting, as you might imagine. I bought a couple of acting books over the holidays: one that I always meant to buy and one relatively new one. I’m not going to assist the authors with their sales by talking specifically about them, because that’s not the aim of this blog post.
I’ve read hundreds of books on acting but since reading True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor – David Mamet, I can’t help it, I find most of them full of shit. I tried to put it differently, but that’s what I mean. These two new books are no exception, they are deeply disappointing. Why are they disappointing? Because they cannot help you act, not in a million years.
Now to be fair, all of these books carry a warning, they say ‘you cannot learn to act from a book’. That’s absolutely true, and they should also say ‘you cannot learn to act from a book – so don’t buy this book’.
My problem is that having read all those books, I truly believe that most of the advice found in them isn’t particularly helpful. It sounds good, it may even have merit, but I just find it… impractical. Don’t misunderstand me, by impractical, I don’t mean that it’s theory, instead I mean that it is not capable of being put to use. And this I suppose is my main point – whatever the contents of the book, most of it is not capable of being put to use for the betterment of actors. This is where most of these books become problematic. The craft of acting is learned in the body of the actor. A book is an interesting commentary, but it’s advice is often impractical to the point of frustration. And so the reader feels idiotic.
So am I saying that all acting books are awful? No, I’m not. Some are very, very good. Am I willing to tell you what they are? Yes, I am willing to tell you which books on acting are really worth buying, because I believe they are absolutely not full of shit.
(Yes, the links are clickable. Yes, I’ll make 3 pence off something that you buy, but at least the book will help you, and that’s got to be worth more than 3p.)