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Wookiee speaks to the inner Jedi in all of us
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‘My Best Friend is a Wookiee'

Written by: Tony Pacitti

Price: $13.57

Three out of five bookmarks.

Recently, my husband and I were watching a documentary about video game players who partake in the online role-playing game, "World of Warcraft." It gives people the chance to take a break from the mundane world to slay monsters, quest for treasure, and explore a majestic fantasy realm (for the fee of about $16 a month).

The game can be so addictive, hard-core players spend more time adhered to their computers than going to work, spending time with family or even sleeping. One might look at these types of people and think, "How on earth does someone get that way? Don't they realize it's just a silly, pointless game?"

Then again, couldn't we say the same about sports fans? Or anyone who has an intense, driven fervor that we personally don't identity with?

For any of you who wanted to understand what goes on in the pop culture-obsessed mind — especially for those of you who have shook your head at anyone at a sci-fi convention dressed as a Storm Trooper — then you will be delightfully amused by Tony Pacitti's memoir, "My Best Friend is a Wookiee."

Pacitti's novel welcomes the reader to witness the evolution of a cinematic phenomenon, Star Wars, through the eyes of a fan-boy - how a childhood adoration would gradually become a means of self-identity and a vehicle for an outsider to connect with others around him.

Pacitti presents himself as the archetypal "nerd," the boy who was always picked on in school, who was never in on the latest fashion or media crazes, and who had trouble with romantic relationships.

Yet through his journey into adulthood, all the while engrossed in the various spectrums of the Star Wars universe, Pacitti reveals a common thread in everyone's lives: our search for a way to escape the confines of a harsh and uncompromising reality.

He found solace in a fantasy world where he visualized himself as the person he always wanted to be, his own brand of Jedi knight who had control and respect. Even though we might see it as an extreme to immerse oneself so deeply in a fictitious movie, all of us have looked for a meaning to our lives through a passion, a mission or even an obsession.

The novel is not what you might expect. I half-thought this would be the collective ramblings of a guy who sits in his underwear in front of his computer all day, punching out self-indulgent blogs about why we all should worship George Lucas and all that he does.

I discovered, however, that this novel is written very well, with honesty and genuine humor. Even for someone who isn't a big fan of Star Wars or science fiction, there is plenty to enjoy here in Pacitti's relationships with friends, bullies, family and others who shared his love (or hate) for the movies.

We read about the different transitions from his elementary school years into high school into college, with all the life lessons that each and everyone of us have experienced in one form or another — only through Pacitti's eyes, he was able to survive the difficulties of his trials by relating with a distraught Luke Skywalker or contemplating a proverb spoken by an all-wise Yoda.

This is a light-hearted, although at times tragic, piece. There isn't anything particularly profound about the book, and you probably won't develop a newfound admiration for Star Wars if you don't already have one.

"My Best Friend is a Wookiee" is, however, entertaining and engaging, and it may help you understand how fantasy is a utility, even a necessity, to cope with our reality. In our own way, we are all looking for our own personal Force — our way to exhibit the greatest extent of our abilities and find our connection to the universe.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? E-mail her to tell her about it.