What others say:
“Show Your Own provides a touching and rhapsodic account of a manic episode. The book realistically describes thought, speech, and emotion with a humor that is both earthy and cerebral.” Michael R. Madow, M.D.
“Show Your Own’s shuffling of similar scenes into two story versions will remind readers of Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch. George Bilbe’s novel has a similar experimental reach. He is closer in spirit to Robert Stone and Dennis Johnson, with mania rather than drugs or the underlife driving the plot.” John Cooke, Professor of English, University of New Orleans
“George Bilbe’s book is entertaining and fun to read. He has captured the ascent into a manic episode and has invoked an infectious mania that pulls the reader along with the central character.” Sarah DeLand, M.D., Tulane University School of Medicine
“This innovative novel opens with a group of characters in search of a screenplay and ends with the screenplay itself. Along the way, the reader is treated to the shock of recognition in experiencing the wildly allusive mind of John, the primary character. The entire work, in brilliant dialogue, finally turns on itself like a crazed serpent swallowing its own tail, only to emerge at the end whole again.” Michael M. Boardman, Professor of English, Tulane University
“I wouldn’t commit John Gilbey (Show Your Own’s main character) if he were wearing two pair of pants.” Frank Minyard, M.D., Coroner, Orleans Parish, Louisiana
Show Your Own immediately strikes the reader as unique with its unorthodox format. The first section consists of transcripts of exchanges between a filmmaker and friends/colleagues of a screenplay’s author – a screenplay which the filmmaker plans to bring to life onscreen. Because the screenplay involves a short bout with mania, medical experts also figure into the conversations with the filmmaker, and the screenplay’s author also makes an appearance to give input into the process. The format itself is imposing at the outset, but after a few pages, you get quite used to it and more or less caught up in the story that unfolds. The fact that the book is a sort of story-within-a-story makes it quite difficult to synopsize. Suffice it to say that the overall message involves teaching law, collegial camaraderie, and a loose knit group of individuals each trying in their own way to deal with the central character’s manic episode. The screenplay, the transcripts, and the edited screenplay which comprises the last section of the book all add up to form a comedic and heartwarming look at mania and its effect on those surrounding the sufferer, a law professor named John.
As the readers, we get front-row seats to witness John’s mania. Sometimes he plays it cool, and other times he loses it. Sometimes he fakes it to throw everyone off his trail, and sometimes he’s not sure if he’s faking it or not. The situations ultimately lead readers to feel a certain empathy for John, as many of us may not have suffered clinical manic depression, but certainly have felt the effects – on ourselves and those around us – of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and general low-level craziness at one time or another. And as a law student, the thought of a professor standing on his desk and igniting his own flatulence holds an embarrassing amount of appeal to me.
As a novel, Show Your Own has little in the way of noticeable flaws. My major issue is that the wife of the main character could have stood a bit more development and involvement in the story. She was the person with the most at stake in her husband’s mental condition, along with his children, yet received very little attention in the story. Including her in one of the transcribed conversations would have added a degree of emotional content to the story deeper than that evinced by the friends and colleagues.
One walks away from the book reflecting mostly on the book’s author himself. Mr. Bilbe, if nothing else, seems to have thoroughly enjoyed himself while writing the book – a fact which is most evident in his treatment of some of the more irreverent segments. Perhaps he wanted to escape the drudgery of typical law review article writing, or perhaps he had his own manic demons to exorcise. Whatever his motivation, George Bilbe has crafted a genuinely funny story, dealing not only with mania, but rather all of the quirks that make us who we are, and what can happen when the quirks take over the more acceptable aspects of our psyches. Steven Boender, Res Gestae, University of Michigan Law School
Every so often, there is written a book so powerful, so original, that the world is changed forever. Das Kapital. The Bible. Horton Hears a Who. To these masterpieces, George Bilbe has added another: Show Your Own.
It is rare that the jaded and wordly-wise editors of the Tiger find anything worthy of praise; to us, mockery is second nature, and the mot juste is usually a four-letter word. In this case, though, we can barely restrain ourselves from adulation. Show Your Own is a work of such brilliance that the reader is well-advised to wear sunglasses.
Ok, so we’re a little gushy. This is our first real book review. For some of us, this is also our first real book – unless you count Dick and Jane Visit the Nudist Camp, which is mostly pictures, really.
Still, Show Your Own is a rarity – an easy read with complex themes, an original structure with perfect flow, a psychological case-study with fart jokes.
Bilbe’s protagonist, a manic-depressive law school professor on a prolonged “toot,” or manic high, is strikingly true to life – so much so that most of the Tiger staffers had multiple relapses during the reading. The symptoms of mania are vividly portrayed: the vitality, the frustration, the quicksilver wit, the reluctance to “slow things down,” even when the mania is at its most draining.
The novel format – a book about writing a screenplay – or perhaps a screenplay about writing a book – or both – is fascinating. Bilbe weaves a tapestry of hermeneutic intricacy. The real and the scripted conflate and diverge with the regularity of an oscillating fan, refreshing the reader without so much as ruffling the book’s delicate pages.
(Yeah, you wish you could write a metaphor like that. Eat your heart out, reader).
More importantly, Show Your Own is an honest-to-God quick read. I started it one night in August, and finished it the next afternoon. The pure-dialogue format has an elegant simplicity, like a ghost-orchid, or a blue-light phone shining through the 3 a.m. fog.
Finally, of course, Show Your Own is funny – otherwise we wouldn’t be reviewing it at all. With wit worthy of Wilde and a scatological bent to contend with Catullus, Bilbe’s humor is quick, thick, and (occasionally) sick.
For humor, originality, and fluidity of prose, Show Your Own is almost as good as we are here at the Tiger. It lacks some of the crucial components which contribute to our excellence, like Cornel West jokes and my own exquisitely crafted metaphors. But it’s a good weekend read, and well worth the pittance of its purchase cost. Go buy it. You are dismissed.” Princeton Tiger Magazine September 2003