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Dutch

Thanks for being my friend, and thanks for putting up with me.

Balancing Acts - Manny Tong Hopefully I'll keep this brief, because Manny Tong obviously could not...

First of all, I'm sure Mr. Tong is/was (not sure if he's still alive, he was born in 1914 but there is no news of him after this book was published) an excellent person. He was a vigilante of sorts when it came to standing up to people of ignorance and prejudice. I have no doubt that to meet this man and hear his story would have been a delight.

But to read it? No.

Manny Tong writes this book recalling his entire life, including what he ate for breakfast most days, and what his dressing rooms looked like to unnecessary, mundane detail between the years of 1929 - 1981. And believe me, it really did feel like it took 52 years to read this book.

The gist of it is about his life as an balancing act performer. And really - unless you are his two children wanting to learn about what their dad did for a living, or a serious balancing act performer wanting to study the career of a man in show business in the 30s and 40s, where that's all he can recount then this book is for no one else.

I ordered the book looking for books on interracial marriage. I assumed that since Tong marries a Caucasian, I would learn about his wife and the love that they shared. No. I did not.

What's worse is that this man had a life and career that spanned over several important years, notably WW2, yet his writing style is so lack-luster that I never got a true feeling of terror during this time, just like I never got the true feeling of joy when his sons were born. Everything was just intertwined with his act. It's amazing how Tong can remember useless detail about how he landscaped his new house in New York state, but won't speak of the romance he had with his wife, or the goings-on with his balancing act partners.

Manny Tong writes as if he just wanted to talk about his entire life, and does it in a way without any creative similes, metaphors, euphemisms, that help entertain as I read. I felt like I was reading someone's personal diary, who just wanted to write about how great his 'act' was. And yes, every third page, Tong will remind how great people thought his 'act' (or 'tricks' as he commonly calls them) are.

I lost focus for about 30% of the book at various times, skimming through such uninteresting detail, just to get on with it. I also felt a little bad for Magda and his sons, having so little mentioned about them and his feelings for them. In a ten-year separation, Manny never mentions how much he misses his family, he just works. You forget he has a mother and brother back home. When he reunites with family, the creative vice he uses is 'our voices were choked with emotion'. Nice, but I wanted more.

Also, Manny seems to have happier memories of his younger son Dan than he does his older son Gary Tong. When Gary is born, he is jaundiced and later on after getting better, keeps them awake at night instead. Manny has much cuter memories of Dan, and also mentions how active and so much like his father he must be - and maybe has the performing blood in him, includes one extra picture of him in his photos, and makes a point of mentioning that he was active, 'just the opposite of Gary', and how clever he was. All I know is, if I was Gary, I would have felt ripped off reading all about my younger brother, and not much fond recollection about myself from my own father.

I could go on for 52 years how much of a disappointment this book was. I gave it one star only because Manny, himself was a smart man who stood up to a lot of nonsense, especially when he worked in the US where prejudism was an issue. Otherwise, I believe this was probably the most boring book I've ever read in my entire life.