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Book Review: Chicken Soup For The 'American Idol' Soul
The Chicken Soup For The Soul series has been a runaway success in the book world, over 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. They have been translated into just about every language but Klingon! When you combine this with American Idol, a TV show that garners 60 million viewers an episode, and 7 seasons under its belt you have what must be a sure fire success.
The formula behind Chicken Soup is deceptively simple, short two or three page real stories that are uplifting, and often concern overcoming some adversity. This format appeals to readers and non-readers alike. Many people are scared of tackling a 300 page book, but everyone can manage a couple of pages.
Chicken A La American Idol features vignettes from performers, backstage staff and even fans of the show.
I have to make a confession at this point. I am likely the only person in North America, maybe even the developed world that has never actually watched American Idol! My entire sum of knowledge about it was gleaned from overheard conversations between co-workers around the coffee pot. This was not an impediment to enjoying the book though. The stories stand by themselves, you do not need to understand the show to enjoy them.
It is hard to pick a favorite story, several stood out in my mind. Mandisa was a contestant that made it to the top 10 finalist list in season 5. Mandisa is overjoyed to to have made it through the audition phase, and her performance is so good that the producers opt to include it in one of the TV episodes. She is gathered with her friends to watch the great event air. Her world is destroyed when what is actually shown on TV includes a snide remark from judge Simon Cowell about her weight. "Are we going to get a bigger stage this year?" he inquires of co-judge Paula Abdul.
Mandisa is crushed. But she gets her revenge. In what could have been a career ending move, when next she meets Mr. Cowell under the glare of the lights and scrutiny of the cameras rolling she does what I am sure many contestants that have been on the receiving end of Simonís barbed remarks would love to do, she gives it to him with both barrels! A deflated Simon Cowell's only response is to ask her to come and give him a kiss!
Nigel Lythgoe is the Executive Producer, and his story ends with the sage advice that is applicable to anyone, under any circumstance. "So, if you are going to dream, dream in Technicolor. Don't dream in black and white." How true he is.
Many of the stories though have little to do with the actual show, the show is merely the catalyst. There are rags to riches stories, and many of the contestants have indeed shot into the spotlight as a result of American Idol. Most though have not forgotten their humble beginnings, whether it be a farm in Iowa, or growing up in 'the projects' of some urban sprawl. And many have 'given back' in some way, from meeting young cancer patients through the 'Make A Wish' foundation, to benefit concerts, they have done it all.
This is a great book, and one that even I, an admitted American Idol virgin can read and enjoy.
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