Of Mule and Man

Of Mule and Man

by Mike Farrell
     
 

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In May 2008—shortly after being named by the Los Angeles Times as a “Person of the Year”—Mike Farrell drove himself across the country on a book tour like no other. Networking with political groups (and friends like Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame), Farrell has redefined the very concepts of book touring and "promotion" through a

Overview


In May 2008—shortly after being named by the Los Angeles Times as a “Person of the Year”—Mike Farrell drove himself across the country on a book tour like no other. Networking with political groups (and friends like Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame), Farrell has redefined the very concepts of book touring and "promotion" through a progressive lens.

Best known for his eight years on M*A*S*H and five seasons on Providence, Mike Farrell is also a writer, director, and producer. Farrell has served on human rights and peace delegations to many countries around the world. His first book, Just Call Me Mike (Akashic Books, 2007), was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Actor-producer Farrell's 2007 memoir, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist, traced his spiritual odyssey from a working-class childhood to fame from TV's M*A*S*H and his worldwide humanitarian efforts. Promotion of that paperback led him on an 8,882-mile book tour to 25 cities, documented in dispatches to the Huffington Post. Now he collects his journal entries from that 36-day road trip with "Mule," his nickname for the Prius hybrid rental car he drove from city to city in May and June 2008. For Farrell, the trip was an opportunity to network with the human rights and justice organizations co-sponsoring the tour, while meeting old friends, giving interviews and doing q&a sessions where he could speak out: "One woman asked me what I thought were the three most critically important things we had to do to get this country back on track. I said, 'Elect Barack Obama, elect Barack Obama, elect Barack Obama.' " The book is nicely designed, with page numbers inside little road sign shapes; chapter headings list mileage, destination and such co-sponsors as the ACLU, Center for Victims of Torture and Greenpeace. Sidebars throughout detail the aims and accomplishments of groups like the Southern Center for Human Rights, which represents hundreds on death row. Farrell writes with an upbeat, optimistic attitude, infused with humor, insights and soul. As he drives across the landscape, he also drives home important social justice issues. (May 1)

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Library Journal

Farrell is best known for his role as B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H, but off the screen, he has been a political activist, working with several human rights and peace organizations. In May 2008, he set out on a book tour for his autobiography, Just Call Me Mike, which he chronicled in dispatches to the Huffington Post. Those dispatches are gathered together here, along with additional information and resources. Farrell's politics are loud and clear in these vignettes as he frequently refers to the events happening in the late spring and summer of 2008, acquiring ammunition by listening to right-wing talk radio along the long stretches of highway between bookstores and public library readings. The descriptions of the landscapes and cities are evocative, but the flow of the story is frequently disrupted with his tendency to name-drop. The book will likely be appreciated by fans and like-minded activists, but others may be turned off by Farrell's polemics.
—Anna Creech

Kirkus Reviews
The actor best known for his portrayal of B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H demonstrates that book tours are every bit as tedious as imagined. In May 2008, Farrell (Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist, 2007) rented a Prius (nicknamed "Mule") and looped across the United States on a 25-city book tour. Reading about his cross-country trip is like thumbing through a stranger's travel diary-it's chock full of meandering, superficial observations that ultimately don't add up to much. Even though each event was co-sponsored by individuals or groups dedicated to social justice, Farrell rarely reflects on the progressive nature of his tour-how it was conceived, what he hoped to accomplish, how it could serve as a model for other authors. Rather than weaving his involvement with these organizations into the narrative, the author includes dry summaries of their missions in boxed-off spaces. Moreover, he often undercuts his stance as an activist with his condescending tone. He sneers at right-wing radio hosts and their audiences ("I truly worry about the people who listen to this crap all the time") and resorts to ad hominem attacks against former President Bush, referring to him as "President Stupid" and a "the pathetic, smirking narcissist who occupies our White House." The larger problem, however, is that Farrell too often glosses over the unique aspects of his tour. In New Orleans, he met with Sister Helen Prejean, a renowned opponent of the death penalty, and instead of offering vivid scenes or telling anecdotes, he simply notes that they had a "great dinner and wonderful conversation." In contrast, Farrell dedicates nearly an entire chapter to getting an oil change at a Firestone dealerin New York City. Despite his forced attempts at whimsy-largely through unconvincing conversations with Mule-what his chronicles inadvertently portray is the mundane, repetitive nature of the modern book tour, where authors skip from city to city with little time to explore individual communities or interact with readers. Slapdash and inessential.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933354750
Publisher:
Akashic Books
Publication date:
05/01/2009
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Of Mule and Man


By Mike Farrell

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2009 Mike Farrell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-933354-75-0


Introduction

April 2009

Los Angeles, CA

Do you know about serendipity? Well, you're holding it in your hands. The word has always tickled me-as does the sense of wonder that comes from having amazing things happen or discoveries made, quite spontaneously, as if by accident. This book is all of that-all part of a kind of magical experience. I had no intention of writing my first book-the one from which this one has sprung (but that's another story)-so just imagine my delight at the birth of Of Mule and Man.

Writing Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist was an adventure in itself, one for which I'm enormously grateful. But the process of introducing it to people, the "book tour" effort necessary to allow an offering from an independent publisher to get a modicum of attention in an extraordinarily competitive marketplace, has not only been a surprise, it has turned into one of the great treats of my life. With every stop on the tour cosponsored by individuals or groups I've worked with in efforts to secure social justice across the world, these travels have been a great way to say thanks to them, and thanks to America for giving us a reason to believe a just society is possible. And the openness and willingness of people across the U.S.-in so-called red and blue states-to welcomeme, to come and say hello, to accept the invitation to hear what I have to say, has enriched me in ways not easily put into words.

That being the case, the chance to do a second tour, this time with the paperback release of Just Call Me Mike, was too good an opportunity to resist. And little did I know, when Johnny Temple, the publisher, asked me to write a journal of the experience for the Huffington Post, that this larky diary would turn into this chronicle, this multifaceted tale of an adventure, an odd kind of love story, and, in all, a heart-wrenching, mind-altering, spirit-raising, brain-twisting happening. It's a story of what was a total hoot!

From California to the New York Island, as Woody Guthrie sang it, my ... well, I'll leave it to you to figure out what she/he was to me ... Mule and I traveled the highways and byways of this great nation-and back again. We saw the high country and the low, the deserts and mountains, the rusty, dusty, boarded-up towns and the bright, shiny, skyscraper-laden cities. We saw extraordinary beauty, natural and otherwise, the horror wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the waste laid by the Iraq War, the remnants of the industrial strength that once powered our nation, the changes caused by global warming, the homeless who've been left out and the hopeful who believe it can yet be made right.

I found long-lost friends and made new ones, discovered long-lost relatives and reclaimed them. I saw evidence-everywhere-of the loving embrace M*A*S*H enjoys. So many people came out to laugh with me over memories of the television show, and also to share stories of first watching it with their mothers and fathers or grandparents and now doing the same with their children and grandchildren; it touched me deeply. The connection, it was never more clear, between countless numbers of people and that show, is engraved on their hearts-as it is on mine.

And in every place Mule and I stopped there were books and book people, readers and writers and those who love words. We talked show business and politics, social concerns and personal ones. Poets and students, the young and the old, were all joined in a mutual sense of gratitude for the possibility of human survival that is promised in the millions and millions of words around us, words written by cynics and lovers, the great and the small, the hopeful and the hopeless, all with a need to put down thoughts, to leave some trace of themselves, for the benefit of those who come after. (As with my first national book tour, political and social justice groups cosponsored each event. You will find details about some of them in the pages that follow-often in their own words-along with a Resource Guide at the end of the book with contact information for all of them.)

These bookstores and libraries are temples, in a way, even the glittering chain stores, to some degree, but mostly the struggling little independents, the mom-and-pop stores; these places, run by big-hearted, literature-loving souls who relish bathing in human knowledge, are havens for the world's seekers. Those who prowl the stacks gain confidence that there is a reason for being-for some, that there is finally a purpose to their existence-by delving into the hearts and minds, the thoughts, ideas and ideals of human beings courageous enough to set them down for others to touch, consider, take in, laugh at, accept, reject, enjoy, identify with and, as a result, become more than they were.

In that spirit I welcome you to this whimsical journey that I shared with a ... well, with a machine ... an inanimate object that became ... animate. It became Mule: my friend, my companion, someone I loved.

This is a mostly lighthearted sharing of a fabulous trip. It was a wacky time, but if there are laughs, and I trust there are, there are also discoveries, some hopefully thoughtful observations and some wonderful experiences, all of them part of coming into contact with the decency, generosity and hope that are, to me, the spirit of America.

Mike Farrell Los Angeles, CA



Excerpted from Of Mule and Man by Mike Farrell Copyright © 2009 by Mike Farrell. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author


Best known for his eight years on M*A*S*H and five seasons on Providence, Mike Farrell is also a writer, director, and producer. Farrell has served on human rights and peace delegations to many countries around the world. As president of Death Penalty Focus, he speaks, writes, and coordinates efforts to stop executions.

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