Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
84° F Dallas, TX

A Book Reviewer Takes To The Stage

By Glenna Whitley |

Nine times a year, the well- | dressed, immaculately groomed members of the twenty-eight-year-old Friday Afternoon Book Club get together over lunch for a Dallas tradition: watching a book review.

At their April meeting, the ladies saw a “performance” of Cold Sassy Tree, a novel by Olive Ann Burns. The reviewer, who brought the book to life with a heavy Southern accent. was Gloria Hocking, an actress who has appeared in local theaters and landed small parts in films such as Papa Was a Preacher and Robo Cop.

Hocking does about 160 reviews a year, riding the “circuit” to Midland, Houston. Oklahoma City, and as far away as Jackson. Mississippi, for fees ranging from $l00 to $500 per review, plus traveling expenses. Her reviews are actually one-woman plays, complete with dialect, costumes, and props, if appropriate. She even has a director, long-time Broadway actress Esther Benson, who helps her stage the reviews.

Hocking “tours” with two books each year, offering one in the spring and another in the fall. She leans toward the classics rather than best sellers. This fall, she plans to do Les Miserables. Shell work up a fifty-minute script, practice for hours with a script prompter, then work with her producer to stage it. She makes an effort to get through the entire book in less than an hour-quite a feat with a 1,200-page tome like Les Miserables.

Though Hocking’s original goal was to work in theater and film, today she’s pleased with her career as a book reviewer.

“With book reviews, you can change people’s opinions, show them another world.” Hocking says. “Perhaps this has more value than a small part in a play.”