Retail by Ric Bennett
An exploration of both celebrity and the everyday, RETAIL: and other things in life we want gift-wrapped is author Ric Bennett’s memoir – a reflection upon his earthy Midwest roots and his fame-tinged Angeleno adulthood. Soon after relocating from Michigan to California to pursue a career as a recording artist in the music industry, our hero Ric finds himself working at an upscale retail location in the heart of Los Angeles. Through Retail, Bennett juxtaposes his upbringing with lessons learned during his new life on the West Coast, all highlighted by amusing celebrity encounters from his time in Tinseltown.
Bennett’s reflections on his life’s journey are interspersed seamlessly with journal entries in a format that is compelling and immediately engaging. Bennett’s tone is conversational and humorous and – regardless of the subject matter – the treatment of his stories is tight and full of warmth. Bennett’s experiences range from rapturous to heartbreaking, but he maintains such a cheerful and optimistic voice so as to always keep the book feeling breezy and approachable. Hand-in-hand with this good-natured air is a casually philosophical current, and Bennett’s adventures are unfailingly accompanied with an insightful perspective. The result is a portrait of a life that is rich, involving, enlightening, and often sparkling with pure hilarity, if a bit incomplete – although Bennett’s tales are all delightful, strung together they do not build and develop in resonance with each other as much as one would like. With some back-and-forth and revisiting of certain themes and events, the book skips ahead and falls back upon itself and can thus feel repetitive and in want of better organization; it works best, perhaps, as a series of short stories than as a full and cohesive memoir. It remains, however, brimming full of timeless sentiments and of-the-moment documentation of our era. Bennett is a grand storyteller and, eschewing pomposity, his story feels honest, pure, and relatable. Retail is ultimately so good because it never aspires or (has the pretense) to be something that it is not, and is therefore an utterly genuine and authentic pleasure.