Review: Seinfeldia

seinfeldia-9781476756103_hrTitle: Seinfeldia
Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Pages: 320
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Summary: Seinfeldia chronicles the history of Seinfeld from its creation, to a behind-the-scenes account of its wildly successful run, and to its immense cultural impact beyond the television landscape.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Having grown up watching Seinfeld and continuing to devour reruns on a nightly basis, I consider myself an ardent fan of the show. Seinfeld devotees are likely the only people to rush out to read this book and I’d say it hits all the right notes that any fan would want or expect. With so much of the show’s minutiae discussed online and featured in its DVD box sets (“Notes about Nothing,” episode commentaries, deleted scenes, bloopers, etc.), it’s likely that diehard fans already know the show down to its tiniest details. Seinfeldia doesn’t present many new or revelatory behind-the-scenes stories or ideas, but it does a good job of compiling the show’s history into a concise chronology that is highly readable.

Author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s exploration of the idea of “Seinfeldia” was the most compelling thing to unpack in this book. Its roots are in real anecdotes and people from Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s life being used as plot points and characters for episodes. Needing to use real life material became so pervasive that writing staffs would be purged after each season so a fresh batch of writers could be mined for new ideas/anecdotes each subsequent year. Seinfeldia seems to be the first attempt to catalog the blurred lines between the real world, the fiction of the show, and the way that fiction impacted the lives of the real-life counterparts. This is never more apparent than when Armstrong discusses how fame from being featured/lampooned on the show manifests itself in different ways. She juxtaposes the disinterested-in-fame Tom’s Restaurant (Monk’s Restaurant on the show) against the money-grubbing Kenny Kramer (Cosmo Kramer on the show) who has made an entire career out of giving tours of Seinfeld landmarks and capitalizing on being basis for fictional Kramer.

Seinfeldia struggles to sustain itself in the backend of the book when Armstrong transitions from a chronological retelling of the show and starts to present anecdotes of people who had brushes with Seinfeld: a woman featured on a Rochelle, Rochelle movie poster, the actor who plays the Soup Nazi, the relationship between Seinfeld’s J. Peterman (John O’Hurley) and the real life clothier John Peterman, and a overlong section about dueling Seinfeld Twitter parody accounts. It certainly works to convey how anything, no matter how small, related to the show could “intrude on the real world,” thus reinforcing the general thesis of the book, but it strayed too far from relevancy to hold my interest. Either way, I breezed through Seinfeldia and enjoyed reliving the “show about nothing” through a different lens.

★★★½ out of 5

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