1 December, 2022

LitStack Rec: Memoirs of Place & The Bassoon King

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocybassoon king
Rainn Wilson

Generally, there are two types of people in life: those who enjoy reading memoirs, and those who don’t.
Okay, that’s not true. Some memoirs are much better than others and gain a larger audience regardless of genre preference. And while, yes, some folks really dig memoirs, some of us really only like reading memoirs if they are penned by quirky people that have already caught our eye for one reason or another.
If you enjoy reading memoir, or if you’re one of those people who think that sometimes it’s fun to read about other people’s reality, then I have a recommendation for you: Rainn Wilson’s The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

In case the name doesn’t ring a bell (although the face probably will), Rainn Wilson is an actor known as Arthur in Six Feet Under, the drugstore clerk in Juno (who had the memorable line, “This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet”), the caustic detective lead in Backstrom, and, most notably, the role of the ridiculous – and somewhat unsettling – Dwight Schrute in the long-running American television version of The Office.

He’s also a co-creator and writer/actor/producer behind the website/YouTube channel SoulPancake, whose tagline is “We Make Stuff That Matters,” where they talk about life’s big questions and profound topics. (Heard of “Kid President”? He’s on SoulPancake.)
Okay, so this book is not great art. But you know what? It’s a lot of what you would expect Rainn Wilson to be: kind of off-beat, absurdly funny, with a great story telling ability and flashes of sincerity.

He starts out being a constant smart aleck. I actually almost stopped reading after a while, because I wanted more than dead-pan humor and clever snarkiness. But before too long Mr. Wilson (think I can call him Rainn? I think I’ll call him Rainn…) gave up more; more insight, more personal stories, more ruminations on things important to him – but still with a healthy helping of humor. His upbringing, his struggles as an unknown actor, his marriage and becoming a father, his faith (nothing boring like Lutheran or Catholic, he was raised within the Bahá’í faith), his fame that came with The Office… he covers all of this, and a great deal more, besides. And even at his snarkiest, his voice remained genuine; no ghost writers here! (I especially enjoyed his depictions of New York in the 1980s; ah, the good old days!)

So this week, I urge you to read Rainn Wilson’s The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy. You’ll find out how he got the name Rainn (and yes, that’s his real name), and why he considers himself “the Bassoon King”. You’ll relive your high school years (even if you’re still in high school). You’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like to be one of the 1,493,988 people in NYC trying to become working actors. You’ll learn a smattering about the Bahá’í faith (no proselytizing, and it’s actually pretty fascinating). You’ll see how Rainn really feels about Mindy Kaling. You’ll come to know why it was so important for him to start SoulPancake, and to work with the Mona Foundation.
And oh, yeah. You’ll laugh. A lot.

—Sharon Browning