I'm not quite sure why and how I ended up reading yet another celebrity memoir (my third in just over a month) when it's not a genre that I particularI'm not quite sure why and how I ended up reading yet another celebrity memoir (my third in just over a month) when it's not a genre that I particularly enjoy most of the time. I think my interest in Kendrick's memoir was piqued by seeing a clip of an interview with Colbert, and that I figured that it might prove to be funny and interesting like Tina Fey's Bossypants or Amy Poehler's Yes Please. I was also interested to see whatshe had to say, considering that she's only 31; then again, she has been in show business for two decades, so there is a lot of material there with which to work.
I would describe myself as a moderate fan of her work; her presence in a movie is enough to pique my interest, but not enough that I would watch a movie just for her. That said, the only movie I could think of that I watched because of her presence was Pitch Perfect, which I am proud to this day to have seen on opening day; I was waaaay ahead of the curve on that one. I am enough of a fan to be interested in hearing her stories, which I suppose is why I ended up reading her book.
The book covers a lot of the material that I expected: her childhood and adolescence in Maine; her time on Broadway; moving to LA as a young actress; stories from Up in the Air and Twilight; thoughts on fashion and glamour; her experience at the Oscars; and more. There was a lot of self-deprecating humour about her size and her insecurities, and a little more than I wanted to learn about her sexual history, but I suppose that is becoming the norm for these kinds of books.
Kendrick has a sharp wit, and much of her humour works well. Her writing has a good flow, and the way she transitions between subjects - aside from a strangely placed sailing story near the end - is effective and enjoyable. I was actually far more entertained than I expected to be, and I feel like I like the already-likeable Kendrick more from reading her book.
She is part of an interesting generation of millennial actresses and entertainers - she mentions her friend Aubrey Plaza several times, but there are several more in her general age range, such as Jennifer Lawrence or Taylor Swift - who have a different way of experiencing fame and Hollywood. They are facing many of the same struggles as previous generations of women - including Fey and Poehler, among many others - but they also have doors open to them that were not open even two decades ago. I do wish that she had taken the time to reflect more on that aspect of her career, rather than just telling stories, but I suppose that level of understanding might come at some point in the future.
Scrappy Little Nobody is enjoyable for what it is: a collection of stories of a young woman who finds herself suddenly confronted with unexpected levels of fame. If you're a fan of Kendrick or of her sarcastic style of humour, this book is probably worth the read - or the listen, for that matter, as I could actually imagine that this might be more entertaining as an audio book. It's easy enough to read/hear, and it's fun. I just probably need to take a break from celebrity memoirs and start reading some real books for a little while......more
I had never heard of Lindy West before I started reading Shrill, so the only reason I read this book was because of a friend's forceful recommendationI had never heard of Lindy West before I started reading Shrill, so the only reason I read this book was because of a friend's forceful recommendation. I soon found myself alternately amused, revulsed, embarrassed, ashamed, and intrigued by West's at times uncomfortable openness with her life stories as a self-proclaimed fat, female, feminist who now writes for Jezebel and has been named a notable internet personality in recent years.
West writes with razor-sharp insight and aplomb, starting with some of her formative experiences as a child and proceeding through various aspects of her journey such as her abortion, living as a fat person, conflicts with her boss, confronting rape culture in comedy, dealing with internet trolls, and dealing with her father's death.
Her story culminates with a unique experience in which she was able to dialogue with one of her harassers, which led to her interviewing her reformed troll on This American Life. It is a fascinating end to a collection of captivating stories, and it serves to echo the point of the rest of her book: there are conversations that need to be had and things that need to be said and things that need to be heard - by men, in particular.
West makes many salient points along the way, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of the observations she made, especially on how she had to deal with the misogyny of the world, especially in comedy circles and on the internet. I did find myself uncomfortable at points with her use of words - not because of her gender, but because I tend not to enjoy overly crass language, which West uses continually. There are some points at which it is warranted, but I found her way of writing a little beyond my tastes at times.
That said, there is a lot here to appreciate, and the points that she makes about the ways in which popular and internet culture deal with women and fat people in particular are valuable and deserve to be heard. I'm glad she was honest, even though it made me uncomfortable at times, as I think I need to continue to learn how to hear some of these discussion points from a different perspective from my own, which she certainly provides.
Shrill is not a book for everyone, but I will be recommending it to certain people that I think would either enjoy it or benefit from it - or both. I also look forward to reading more of her work online and to seeing what happens in her life in the future....more
I first heard about Mike Myers' Canada on the CBC, which seems appropriate, considering how often Myers proclaims his unabashed love for the CanadianI first heard about Mike Myers' Canada on the CBC, which seems appropriate, considering how often Myers proclaims his unabashed love for the Canadian public broadcaster. Myers has collected his thoughts on what it meant for him to grow up in Canada and to be an expatriate Canadian, and he also shares a few stories about his time as a comedian and international comedy superstar along the way.
This has instantly become one of my favourite Canadian memoirs, along with Will Ferguson's Why I Hate Canadians. Myers' focus really is on how being Canadian has shaped him and his comedy - including the revelation that Wayne Campbell, as I always suspected, really is a Canadian - rather than on telling tales of his various adventures. Myers spends as much time extolling the wonders of Canada and its history - focusing particularly on the period between 1967-1976 during Pierre Trudeau's time in office - than he does discussing his own experiences on Saturday Night Live, for example.
It's a welcome shift from other memoirs I have read recently, and Myers displays his trademark comic wit and way with words as he talks about all of the things he loves about Canada and especially when he tells stories of his expat English father's adjustment (or not) to the Great White North. There are many laugh-out-loud moments - at least one per page - along with many meaningful digressions into what it actually means for Myers to be Canadian.
I could tell just how close Canada is to Myers' heart in the loving way that he talks about his connection to this country throughout the book, and I found his conclusion, in which he focuses on his reaction to the Parliament Hill attack in 2014 and Justin Trudeau's election in 2015, to be particularly compelling.
Mike Myers' Canada is going to become a staple in my collection, and I will definitely use selections when I teach Canadian Literature to high schoolers. It is hilarious, poignant, amusing, reflective, thoughtful, and self-effacing - just like the Canada that Myers loves so dearly. ...more
I have been a fan of Moby's music since Play came out almost two decades ago, but I have also been intrigued by his personal perspectives for that samI have been a fan of Moby's music since Play came out almost two decades ago, but I have also been intrigued by his personal perspectives for that same amount of time. Moby has long advocated for veganism, animal rights, social justice, and Christianity - or at least Christ - in his music, writing, and the essays that often accompany his albums, and I hoped that I would find some of that same thoughtfulness in his first memoir, which outlines his early beginnings as a DJ in New York City and ends just as he is creating his hit 1999 album Play.
The book is divided into major sections of his life that cover the decade chronologically, and each section is comprised of short vignettes that serve as glimpses into the life of a twenty-something aspiring musician and DJ living in poverty in NYC. The first half of the book is full of fascinating stories about his life as he works through his suburban Connecticut upbringing, his Christian faith, living in poverty, being part of rave culture, living "straight-edge" (sober), his music increasing in popularity in England, and random encounters with celebrities.
He is achingly honest and open in his self-exploration, to the point that it is surprising that he is able to have this kind of introspection after over two decades. There is a tenderness that permeates his stories, and I really found the way in which he explores his Christian faith - such as it is - to be very intriguing. The stories themselves are quite funny, as well as the candor with which Moby describes the various wacky situations in which he finds himself, and I really enjoyed the start of the book.
The tone of the book changes in the second half, however, as his career takes off and he decides to start drinking again. Though there are glimpses of the honesty and vulnerability he showed in the earlier sections of the book, much of the second half (1995-1999) is detailed descriptions of the various forms of rock star debauchery to which he descends in a continuously drunken stupor.
I did find many of the stories in this section interesting, and I found his writing about his career - especially his poorly received 1997 album Animal Rights - particularly captivating, but I did feel that the whole last half of the book descended a bit too far into tawdry details of drunkenness and random sexual encounters. I suppose that was his life for the last half of the nineties, and the experiences do provide for some funny and interesting stories, but I wanted more of the reflection he provided in his stories from the first half of the decade.
There were some moments that shone in his recollections of those latter years - stories about his mom having cancer and some occasionally clear reflections on the sad state of his life at the time - but the one that really stuck out was in the midst of his drunkenness, when he recounts the story of when a teenage boy asks Moby to sign his Bible, since he knew that Moby was a Christian. It's a fascinating moment in a whirlwind of heartbreaking stories, and one of the redeeming scenes of the entire book.
With all that said, Porcelain is one of the more engrossing memoirs I have read. Even - or perhaps especially - in the last half of the book, Moby is painfully and awkwardly honest, and he mostly seems to be attempting to tell stories of his life without necessarily promoting them or framing them in a particular light.
There is a lot to think about here, including the effects of fame, the consequences of one's decisions, the ravages of alcoholism, grappling with grief, or wrestling with morality and theology. Despite all of the rock star stuff, Moby's memoir is not a typical braggadocio of those encounters; then again, Moby is not a typical musician.
I did learn a lot more about Moby and his life, even though he is still very enigmatic, and I am enjoying listening to some of those early songs with a fresh perspective on the way in which they were constructed. I'm not sure if I can recommend the book unless you're really interested in Moby himself or the culture of NYC's rave and techno scene in the 90s, but I can't say that I'm disappointed that I read it, and I would certainly be interested to read the book he writes about the next chapter of his life....more
I think we've been spoiled by celebrity comedian biographies over the past few years - Tina Fey's Bossypants and Amy Poehler's Yes Please immediatelyI think we've been spoiled by celebrity comedian biographies over the past few years - Tina Fey's Bossypants and Amy Poehler's Yes Please immediately spring to mind - so I had high hopes for Joel McHale's Thanks For the Money, even if I did not have very high expectations. The book met my expectations, but not my hopes.
McHale is best known as the smarmy, self-involved version of himself from hosting The Soup and as Jeff from Community, so I was interested to see if and how his brand of comedy might differ from the characters he has played. My biggest disappointment is that there seemed to be little differentiation between the portrayals and the person, or at least the persona that he and his ghostwriters employed throughout the book.
Though there are moments in which he seems candid as he discusses his life and career, it seems too often that he has tried to maintain the sarcastic veneer he has cultivated. I found this decision - assuming it was deliberate - tiring, as I mostly wanted to get a sense of the real Joel McHale. When that person came through, I really appreciated it, but I thought that there was maybe a quarter of the whole book in which that voice had even a possibility of emerging.
There are some amusing and interesting anecdotes here, particularly about his time on Community (which is admittedly the main reason I wanted to read the book in the first place), but my recommendation would be to take the book from the library and read just those chapters if you're a fan of the show; the rest of the book is mostly tired and tiring and not really worth the time - or the money, for that matter....more
I had only encountered Glennon Doyle Melton in small portions, primarily through reposts of quotations from her blog, Momastery, on Facebook, but I haI had only encountered Glennon Doyle Melton in small portions, primarily through reposts of quotations from her blog, Momastery, on Facebook, but I had been meaning to read her books for awhile largely due to how much several dear friends of mine have responded to her writing. I decided to start with her more recent book, Love Warrior, in which she tells the story of her marriage - the baggage she brought into it, the awkward start and early years, the near-end a decade in, and the restoration of her relationship with her husband and with herself through it all.
It sure seems like Melton chose to hold nothing back, as she shares the disturbing details of her teenage life, college years, and early adulthood as an alcoholic and bulimic who found "love" through receiving attention from men, which she earned through constant binging and purging on booze and food. Her experience is harrowing, not only because of the depths of depravity she describes, but also because I imagine that it is not nearly as uncommon as I would hope it to be.
The world Melton describes is entirely foreign to me, not only as a man, but also as someone who never participated in "party culture"; I understand it only through the stories that others share of their experiences. I found myself disgusted throughout her story, not at her behaviour, but at how the ways in which men treated her led to her inability to choose another path for herself. I was repeatedly heartbroken at how it seems to have taken her until her late thirties to voice a number of these problems and to see how they have affected her, and I was profoundly perturbed.
As Melton continues her story of recovery and her early marriage, I was able to find more points of connection, mainly through knowing friends who have had similar experiences. Melton tells the story of how she discovered her husband's addiction to pornography and how he had repeatedly cheated on her, and her voicing of her reactions therein might have been the most valuable part of the book for me to read, as it helped me understand how women think in those circumstances.
Melton is disarmingly open and honest with her story, and there were times at which her level of oversharing was awkward. I am not sure that is a negative thing, and I think that it had to be awkward and that there is value therein, but Love Warrior is not an easy read. It's worthwhile, particularly for women who need someone like Melton to be their voice, but also for men who need to understand the female perspective.
Although I really appreciated her story and the way in which it was written, I did find myself somewhat conflicted after reading it more from the circumstances around the book rather than from what was actually in its pages. Melton announced just before the book was released that her marriage was ending, which understandably affects the ways in which a story about how a marriage was healed would be received.
Melton did express her own conflicted feelings about communicating what happened in a blog post, and in doing so she states that her book is really more about loving herself than it is about marriage. I do not entirely disagree with her perspective; in fact, I do agree that her story is more about herself in the context of her marriage than it is about her marriage, and I understand her repeated assertions throughout the book and in blog posts afterward that that was the way that she needed to process her journey.
Where I find myself conflicted is that I think, despite her openness and honesty, that she misses something along the way. I get that she needed to focus on her own journey, especially considering the pain and difficulty she needed to process, but I came away from the book and her subsequent posts hoping that she discovers the something more that comes from a wider perspective. It's hard for me to identify just what that perspective might be or what is missing - and I might be wrong in even thinking that something was amiss at all - but I hope that she keeps learning and growing, no matter what happens.
Melton is becoming a significant enough voice not only as a female blogger but as a self-identified Christian that I feel the need to continue to read her work because it is increasing in prominence (largely thanks to Oprah) and it is affecting many people I know and respect. That said, I also personally appreciated her story and her voice, and I am looking forward to continuing to read her work and to see how her journey continues to unfold....more
Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton has been on my radar for awhile, but I only recently found this book in a thrift store. After reading Melton'sMomastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton has been on my radar for awhile, but I only recently found this book in a thrift store. After reading Melton's second book, Love Warrior, I wanted to go back and read this earlier collection of thoughts, which seems like it's mostly a collection of blog posts from her earlier blogging years.
Her later writing is definitely a lot more even and skilled, but there are hints of the writer that she would become peppered throughout the book. She has collected her thoughts into sections that are roughly themed according to various life events - marriage, parenthood, grief, etc. Some sections had less appeal for me - the parenting sections, for example - but there were some really effective passages peppered throughout the book.
There were two reasons I read Carry On, Warrior: I wanted to get a sense of who Melton is on a wider scale; and I wanted to be encouraged as a writer. I felt the latter, even just by reading the writing of someone who was honestly writing her way through life; and I did feel as though I got to know her better through her writing. I did find some of the ways in which she expressed her faith to be a bit troublesome; I can't quite pinpoint why, but something seemed slightly askew and self-focused in the way she wrote about her experience in church.
After reading both books, I think that Love Warrior - the contents of which she alludes to in brief early on in this book - is the better book. It features stronger writing, and I feel as though it goes deeper into who she is and why she is. I ultimately felt as though Carry On, Warrior was more superficial throughout most of the book, but not necessarily in a negative way - in the way that she needed to write these things to get to the depths later on.
Now that I have read both of her books, I don't really feel the need to continue reading her books or her blog. I often found myself skimming and skipping through her pieces, and I realized early on that I am not really her target audience at all. That said, I understand why who she is and how she writes resonates with people, especially mothers, and I think that she is bringing something of value into the world as a writer - just not as a theologian. ...more
I have been a Weird Al fan for two decades, and after finally watching him in concert on Sunday night, I was very excited to read the official book ofI have been a Weird Al fan for two decades, and after finally watching him in concert on Sunday night, I was very excited to read the official book of his life and career. In light of my well-established fandom, I was hoping that this book would provide insights into Al's career and life that I had not yet known or seen many times; unfortunately, it was surprisingly light and devoid of much detail.
Granted, it is a coffee table book filled with pictures from Al's childhood and jokes from Al's Twitter feed, so I don't know that it could have done much more than it did, but it felt light even for its format. Furthermore, I was not a huge fan of Nathan Rabin's writing, as it often seemed to make assumptions about the reader's knowledge and make some broader statements that did not quite seem to always line up.
The book did give an overall picture of the progress of Al's career and it provided enough enjoyment that I will likely return to it again if I feel like I need a fix of Al's personality that cannot be satisfied by YouTube. That said, the definitive Al biography is still waiting to be written, and I remain interested in the whole story. For what it is, Weird Al: The Book is an entertaining diversion for an hour or two, and that's good enough to keep it on my shelf....more
I first encountered Mark Titus as a NCAA basketball writer on the Grantland website; after occasionally reading his pieces around the time of March MaI first encountered Mark Titus as a NCAA basketball writer on the Grantland website; after occasionally reading his pieces around the time of March Madness, I figured that I might as well read his chronicle of his time as an end-of-the-benchwarmer with Ohio State University from 2006 to 2010. I read fellow basketball journeyman Paul Shirley's memoir Can I Keep My Jersey? a couple of years ago, so I figured that another journey into the bowels of basketball's benches might be entertaining and informative. Titus' journey from being a walk-on to the founder of a popular blog is certainly both, and he fills his story with amusing anecdotes that are sure to be of interest for fans of basketball and his blog. I was a little disappointed with the general level of crassness and immaturity Titus displayed throughout most of the book, but after going back and reading some of his earlier work, I realized that this level of discourse was part of his style of writing. Then again, to be fair, Titus essentially says as much himself, so I knew what I was doing when I started. With that in mind, I find it hard to recommend the book, or at least have to feel that I have to mention that there is a certain amount of puerile humour to endure, and that the end product might not be the worth the process....more
There are not a lot of books that have hit me as deeply and as significantly as Evans' stories about her struggles with the church. There are portionsThere are not a lot of books that have hit me as deeply and as significantly as Evans' stories about her struggles with the church. There are portions of this book that I felt like I could have written almost verbatim, and I wanted to start rereading it as soon as I finished. Wow....more
There are not a lot of books that I want to read again as soon as I finish them, but unconventional "pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber's confessional memoir iThere are not a lot of books that I want to read again as soon as I finish them, but unconventional "pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber's confessional memoir is one of them. There were so many moments when I felt like I knew exactly what she was expressing from my own experience in a small missional often awkward church and when I was able to laugh, cry, or curse along with her. I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you're thinking that there has to be a different way to be part of the church....more
What would happen if someone spent a year watching a movie at the theatre every day? That's the project that Mystery Science Theater 3000's Kevin MurpWhat would happen if someone spent a year watching a movie at the theatre every day? That's the project that Mystery Science Theater 3000's Kevin Murphy decided to undergo in 2001, which also happens to be a year that was formational for me as a movie-watcher. The timing of his journey is also really striking, as 2001 marked a shift in cinema: superhero movies were not ubiquitous tentpoles; mega-franchises like Fast and the Furious, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings started, and it was arguably one of the last years before digital really took over both as a medium on the screen and in delivery of the movies. It makes for an interesting look back not only at that year, but at the way that movies were.
I anticipated that Murphy's trademark wit, sarcasm, and love of movies would come through, and it did - though not nearly as sarcastically as I had hoped and anticipated, given the general quality of movies released at the time and the number of times Murphy had to watch some of those movies. What surprised me was how generally positive Murphy was throughout his journey, and how his experience actually seemed to bolster his faith in the future of the cinema. And oddly, enough, I found his enthusiasm to be refreshing. If you're not much into movies or going to the theatres, there won't be much here for you, but if you're a fellow cinephile, this is worth the read....more
It's a cliché that famous comedians write a memoir at some point in their careers, but Amy Poehler, star of Saturday Night Live and Parks and RecreatiIt's a cliché that famous comedians write a memoir at some point in their careers, but Amy Poehler, star of Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation, seems to understand that truism well as she indirectly addresses the struggles in writing a book in her introduction. Throughout this collection of essays about a variety of professional and personal topics from her entire life, Poehler is funny, relatable, and unexpectedly (for me at least) poignant at times.
Whether she is relating stories from her time performing improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade after she moved to New York, talking about her "comedy wife" Tina Fey, or delivering advice on marriage, sex, or childbirth, Amy is often simultaneously sassy and significant, and I kept on being surprised at how her honesty was not only refreshing but also insightful for me personally.
Yes Please is one of those rare comedian's memoirs that does not have to be limited only to fans of her comedy, and I know that I will enjoy returning to essays from time to time for their own merit, and not just because I'm a fan.
I was already a fan of Evans from her subsequent book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, so I had a good idea that I would appreciate the story of how sheI was already a fan of Evans from her subsequent book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, so I had a good idea that I would appreciate the story of how she began to question her fundamentalist Evangelical upbringing; I started reading this memoir one night and finished it the next morning. Evans, like other authors such as Donald Miller and Matthew Paul Turner, has a way of writing confessionally and personally that allows her to focus on her experience while still acknowledging the larger issues inherent with her upbringing. There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book as Evans tells her story, and just as many (if not more) cringe-inducing moments as she describes some of the behaviours she experienced either directly or indirectly; no matter what tone she takes, however, Evans remains respectful of her community and her peers, even as she describes her search for answers in a somewhat hostile environment. Evans' book is entertaining, informative, and fascinating, and much of her own experience is fairly universal despite her distinct contextualization of her story; I found myself repeatedly identifying with her, particularly as she outlined her experiences in high school. Evans writes with poise and precision, and she is one of the essential voices in the conversation of what it means for millennials to be part of the church today. If you haven't read her work and you fall into the category of someone who, like Evans and myself, is asking questions, you need to start reading her book(s) soon. ...more