Book Review: Most Famous Short Film of All Time
Reviewed by Genevieve Hartman
A quirky hybrid book exploring everything from trans experience to ghostly encounters
By turns philosophical, heartfelt, and humorous, Most Famous Short Film of All Time by Tucker Lieberman is a meditation on life, particularly the intricacies of one Lev Ockenshaw.
Lev is a queer and trans Jewish man who is sensitive, knowledgable, and more than a bit of a dreamer. Told in first-person and set in the early to mid 2010s, the novel tells of Lev’s failed relationship, his hysterectomy, his friendships, his creepy ex-coworker, his supernatural visitations, as well as his fixations on the JFK assassination and the death of his favorite author. Pop culture, historical, and literary references abound, and images spread throughout the book add to the text’s eclectic feel. Lev is inspired by everything from the Mayans to Meghan Trainor.
Most Famous Short Film of All Time is unlike any other book that I’ve encountered before. The storytelling reflects Lev’s idiosyncratic nature, presented in very short segments labeled “Fog,” “Flashbulb,” and “Flyleaf” that are all individually titled and often appear two or three to a page. These segments are also split into larger episodes with names such as “Speculirium,” or “Stop Chad (Tele-Quiz).”
Lev’s mind is constantly whirring, and readers will find themselves ferried back and forth between the narrative and meta-narrative, and again to somewhere in between. His obsessions with the fictional author Chad Goeing’s death and the shooting of JFK offer a through-line for the novel; the Zapruder film capturing JFK’s assassination is the titular most famous short film.
Lev is a lovable and memorable protagonist, full of nervous energy and pithy sayings, my favorite of which is the misquote of Winnie the Pooh, “Oh bother…Now we are cis.” His character is made very real as he grapples with deep-seated fears and past traumas. His friendship with Stanley, which implodes and must be mended, is constantly in the back of his mind. His dreams blend into reality. He is endlessly caught up in his own head, and readers are swept along for the wild ride.
If there’s a downside, it’s that Lev’s love of waxing philosophical ratchets up the page count considerably. While his oblique musings are enjoyable in small portions, it can be hard to follow the story due to the sheer volume of them. It’s difficult to sustain a high level of concentration when the interruptions break up the storyline so frequently.
This hybrid-form, journalistic novel covers a wide gamut of experiences with a thoughtful, contemplative voice. It speaks meaningfully about being trans, about navigating trauma, about traversing the minefields of corporate life, about being eccentric and scatterbrained, and about the work of friendship. A fun and fluid read, Tucker Lieberman’s Most Famous Short Film of All Time is capacious, somehow intentional even as it meanders along.
Publisher: tRaum Books
Genre: Literary Fiction / LGBTQ+
Print Length: 462 pages
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