I’m not terribly impressed with James Dean: The Biography by Val Holley. It has some interesting details, but doesn’t have any of the substance or true insight into both what made him tick and what made him such a huge movie star that the brilliant James Dean: The Mutant King had. That book truly tapped into James Dean as a person, the culture and pop culture at the time and after, and why he was relevant at the time, and continues to be relevant to many, many people. If I were reading this book, which I’m 80 pages into, without any prior knowledge of him, I don’t know if I’d even get the gist of why this person was so important at all. This one seems less interested in his acting technique and more interested in determining how many of his purported sexual relationships with both women and men were true and which were fallacious. Not that sexuality isn’t important in creating a full picture of a person (in fact, the one thing I’d fault Dalton, author of Mutant King, with is almost entirely side-stepping the issue of Dean’s ambiguous sexuality), but he spends more time on that than on (a) his acting style and (b) his childhood in Fairmount, Indiana and mother who died when he was in third grade, both of which are described in most other sources that I’ve read, as two of the key influences on his life. The most interesting tidbit that I had not heard before, though, is that one of the reasons for his famous mumble is that his two front adult teeth were knocked out when he was playing in the barn, as a young teenager, and the fake front teeth gave him great difficulty in being able to position his tongue in the right spot to pronounce many words. I also did not know that he was a very slow reader, to the point that it might be considered a disability today. I had heard the famous story of how he went to an audition with cracked glasses, because he couldn’t afford to replace them, and so he had trouble reading the script, and how the director gave him money for glasses. He showed up later to the audition, with the same glasses, but the script memorized and when asked by the director what he did with the money, he told him that he had bought lunch, since he had no money. This book reveals that the no-money thing was accurate, but that the reason he wore cracked glasses was not just a money issue, but because he wanted to hide his reading disability. He could then take his time reading the script, memorize it, and perform, without having to worry about reading it right off the page on stage for the first time. It’s interesting little anecdotes like this that are making the book worth reading for me.