Sunday, March 01, 2015

Things I Never Thought I'd Like This Much: Celebrity Autobiography

I've read my share of these--Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Bossypants, Yes, Please!--and I usually find them mildly amusing, but not quite interesting enough to write about.  I mean, they're usually comedians, and they usually had pretty standard childhoods, and through drive plus skill plus luck, they end up famous, but really, they're just like everyone else.  And, while they're funny, they're mostly not prose writers (they are mostly TV writers, because apparently that's what I read), and so while the books are funny, they're meant for delivery.  This is why I mostly listen to them as audiobooks.

There's never quite enough personal connection, never quite enough dirt.  These are people writing books because it's a good career move--they're funny, people will buy it, it'll boost their visibility.  Which is fine, but it also means that they're not actually doing it because they have something to say about their lives; they're doing it because they want to talk about something, and the material available to them is their lives.  And because people are curious.  But you also don't want to alienate people, so you get the best stories about other stars, and you hear how warm and gracious and funny everyone is.

Now, having listed all these things out, I can tell you why Neil Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography is the best celebrity autobiography I've read. 

1) His childhood gets interesting really fast.  He was in a movie with Whoopi Goldberg when he was like 14.  Also Doogie Howser.  His adolescence contains some good anecdotes that are unlike the ones my friends have to tell.

2) I won't say he's not afraid to talk trash, because he only dishes dirt on a few people, none of them A-listers.  But he does have some stories of exactly the People magazine level of trash that you want to hear--the child actor club scene in the early '90s, when Shannen Doherty was terrorizing drunk club kids and Scott Caan was in some kind of gang.  He drops enough bits about bad directors, uncomfortable sitcom sets, and Dustin Diamond to make it more salacious than a lot of people.

3) His personal story of coming out, both to himself and to the world, is really touching and honest.  Again, it's not like he delves into deep psychological territory, but he talks about the false starts, about why it was hard and what he struggled with, and he's quite vulnerable and honest about these things.  This is the kind of story I like to read even if I don't already like the guy who's telling it.

4) He just seems adorable.  He loves magic and Disney and the Muppets.  When he talks about going to Disney World, he seems honestly as excited by it as Mike gets.  And the fact that he gets the star treatment there (of course)--he's humble and grateful and cheerful about it.  That's a hard tone to capture, believe me.

5) Finally, and I hate to say this, I think he's partly able to be more open about all these things because he's a dude.  It feels like a feminist betrayal to like this book more than the ones I listed above because of this: it's less bridge-burny for a guy to be honest about these things, to tell the behind-the-scenes dirty stuff, than it is for a woman to do this.  Which gives him the freedom to give me this book that I really love.

Oh, and this doesn't need a number, but the man can write.  I'm laughing out loud, reading passages out to people.  He's witty, verbally adept, and an efficient storyteller.  This book is so damned funny.

So a shout out to my best girl, Brenda--thank you SO MUCH!  This was the best spontaneous, for-no-reason gift I've ever gotten.  It's so perfect!

1 comment:

Lianna Williamson said...

Squeeeeeee! I loved this book. It was my Christmas present to myself, and I thanked me very sincerely.