Bess Kalb on the TV show she wishes she'd written and the classic novel she never read
In Bess Kalb's best-selling memoir Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, she tells readers about four generations of women, all centered on her formidable grandmother Bobby Bell. But that's just the beginning of her storytelling work: The author is a highly successful television writer, having spent eight years at Jimmy Kimmel Live, in addition to credits that include the Academy Awards and Democratic National Convention. Here, on the heels of the paperback release of Nobody, Kalb offers her own takes on her most formative pop culture — with TV picks and so much more.
My favorite book as a child
Hey Willy See the Pyramids, by Maira Kalman, was more important than the Bible to my family. We're Jews so technically any book was more important than the Bible, but Hey Willy was the foundational text for us Kalb children.
The movie I watch over and over
I wish I were cooler, but the answer is the Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudice — so many times [that] I memorized the hand gestures.
The last book that made me cry
Pachinko [by Min Jin Lee]. Every hundred pages, I wept. I'm going into a trance thinking about it.
The last book that made me laugh out loud
Wow, No Thank You, by the great Sam Irby — I laughed so hard I got angry.
The first record I bought with my own money
Crazy Sexy Cool, by TLC, and though I don't remember my husband's social security number, I still know all the words to "Waterfalls."
The TV show I wish I'd written
Seinfeld, and I'd buy my parents a yacht.
The writer who made me want to be a writer
Susan Orlean. I read The Orchid Thief in high school and wrote my college essay about how I wanted to be a journalist. I later told her this and she was very gracious and only mildly creeped out.
The last TV show I binged
At this stage of the pandemic I only have the attention span for tightly produced reality competitions like The Great British Baking Show and Chopped. A patient under twilight anesthesia would be able to follow an episode of Chopped. Lately I've been watching a solo wilderness survival competition called Alone that is so strangely relaxing I fall asleep on the couch as people forage for berries trying not to freeze to death. My brain no longer functions properly.
The classic novel I never read
I've nodded knowingly at a few Brothers Karamazov references that have gone completely over my head. That's one thing I don't miss about life before lockdown: pretentious guys at dinner parties who want you to know they've read The Brothers Karamazov, which, by the way, I had to Google to get the spelling right.