We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Monday, 4 February 2013

That's Life - The February Edition

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." Oscar Wilde

Autobiographies and Memoirs are my favourite book genre. It started when I first read Boy by Roald Dahl when I was 12 years old. The tales from his childhood were just so magical, they sounded like they were made up. I thought that life could not possibly be this fun in the 20th century, it certainly had not been in the 12 years of the 20th century that I lived. I had the same thought when I read it again when I was 13 in 2001. I was enchanted by how someone else's life could have so many crazy yet fun fragments in it when my life had none of those. My favourite chapter in his book has always been The Great Mouse Plot - where he tells the tale of a dead mouse that he and his friends found under a loose floor board in their classroom where they used to hide things. They decided to sneak it into a sweet jar at the sweet shop they used to frequent where the dreadful Mrs Pratchett was the owner. They thought they would get away with it, but unfortunately, instead of getting away with it they got an awful thrashing from their principal. Of course there is none of the brilliance in my retelling, but I dare you not to be tickled when reading his rendition.

I soon came to realise that life was different for everyone and that the more memorable parts of life may not be in your childhood but at a different stage of life. My more memorable parts definitely came in university. But that is not the point of this edition. Not entirely anyway. All of us have a time in our lives that stand out above all  others for various reasons, it could be good and it could be bad. For instance Pang-Mei Chang wrote Bound Feet and Western Dress to reflect on the changes that have come about in the space of 2 generations, looking at her modern life in comparison to that of her grand aunt who had a difficult time because she didn't have her feet bound. Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes to tell of his sometimes horrific childhood and the way that being poor in Ireland in the 1930s and 1940s impacted the opportunities that were available to him - even within the Catholic church.

There are very rarely happy memoirs - and it makes sense, because there is not much to learn in being happy and getting what you want all the time. Even the always smiling Goldie Hawn has some sadness in her book 'a lotus grows in the mud' and truth be told, it is the fact that we all experience these sad times that others are further endeared to us when they reveal that their lives are not all moonshine and roses.

Some memoirs share the crazy adventures that people have had - coming from being poor to being rock stars like I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and Life by Keith Richards. Some memoirs share just specific highlights from a section of the author's life like Truth be Told by Larry King. I have read many wonderful autobiographies and memoirs,  and before I get to those that I'll be reviewing for this month's edition, I am going to share a few that are my favourites and some that I think you should give a chance:

Some of my favourites...
Bono on Bono - Bono and Mischka Assayas
Life - Keith Richards
I am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne
Extreme - Sharon Osbourne
Boy - Roald Dahl
Geisha of Gion - Mineko Iwesaki

Most profound...
Anne Frank Remembered - Miep Gies
Night - Elie Wiesel
Unbearable Lightness - Portia de Rossi
Angela's Ashes  - Frank McCourt

Most comforting...
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair - Nina Sankovitch

Most enlightening...
Freddie Mercury his life in his own words
a lotus grows in the mud - Goldie Hawn

On my future TBR list...

Me - Ricky Martin 
True Compass - Ted Kennedy
Straight from the Heart - Lara Bush
Wat's Nuus - Riaan Cruywagen
Ronnie - Ronnie Wood
According to the Rolling Stones
Happy Accidents - Jane Lynch
The Art of Good Living - Edith Venter
Transformation - Chaz Bono
Does the noise in my head bother you? - Steven Tyler

My future acquisition list aka those on my radar: (you know in case anyone wants to buy for me *wink, wink nudge, nudge*)

Funny Peculiar - Will Young
Lessons in Becoming Myself - Ellen Burstyn
Vyftig, Vurig + Fabulous - Brumilda van Rensberg
Then Again - Diane Keaton
Lessons from my Father - Barack Obama
From this Moment On - Shania Twain
Bossypants - Tina Fey
All that is Bitter and Sweet - Ashley Judd
If you ask me: (and of course you won't) - Betty White
I'm over all that - Shirley MacLaine
My First Five Husbands... and the ones who got away - Rue McClanahan

And now for some reviews...

Truth be Told - Larry King

For years I have admired Larry King and his ability to cut to the quick in an interview - getting to the heart of the matter with a professional grace that no one else possesses. When I heard about his book Truth be Told - I just had to have this book. True,  I did wait to get the paper back issue as opposed to the hard cover, but I am just happy to own the book.

There has been a fair amount of criticisms of this book, people believing that it the book does not deliver. I absolutely disagree with these criticisms. It was like looking through a photo album with the one and only King of Talk, except instead of stories he retells some of his best stories. Larry King who came from humble beginnings and made it in the big time. He recalls his start in radio and his breakfasts, and all the people he has spoken to. His recollection of some of his greatest interviews, his friendships with Al Pacino and Frank Sinatra - the changes he has noticed in people and politics over the years. Larry King's keen observations have opened my eyes to so many things, and I wish there were more people with his skill, so that there can be more opportunities for the questions that matter to be asked and answered.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe first came onto my radar in the mid 2000's, when I saw him on Brothers and Sisters, and then again when I started watching Parks and Recreation. I was quite thrilled when he was on Oprah and mentioned his book Stories I Only Tell My Friends. I finally got a copy in 2012, and whilst it took me a few months before I actually started reading it, once I started, I was so enthralled by Rob's amazing voice and truly captivating story of his life that I finished it in 3 sittings.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends is a phenomenal book spanning much of Rob Lowe's life, and the moments preceding and leading up to his big break as an actor. From the day he decided he wanted to become an actor and the steps he took getting there. The big moments in life he experienced, the big people he met, and the rising stars that he grew up with. The fact that Rob Lowe has managed to changed his public persona from pretty party boy to devoted father and husband and talented actor with staying power shows how truly remarkable Rob Low is. The insight he shares on his changing childhood family, to his chosen family of friends including the Sheens as well as the moments he got to share with stars before he was one is written so succinctly, that if acting did not work out for him, Rob could easily have been a writer.

I have to say that I admire Rob so much more now, looking at how his introspection helped him to get further in life, as opposed to becoming a victim of his circumstances, particularly the ever changing father figure in his childhood, the divorce of his parents, and the afflictions that plagued his mother.  And I am not just saying this because his birthday is a day after mine... Rob has certainly become wiser with everything that has happened in his life, and this book absolutely shows for it.

Reading Stories I only Tell my Friends helped me to comprehend something that had been on the periphery of my thoughts but just needed some more stimulus to become something comprehensive, and I think it is something that everyone should realise. There is the story as it is experienced by the person living the story, or the person who should be the narrator. And then there is the story as perceived by everyone on the outside. And the ones who perceive the story from the outside and turn it into sensation are the paparazzi and the gossip blogs and magazines. The sensation of course having the sole purpose of making more money for those who see the events unfolding from the outside and then distort them to create sensationalism that will boost sales. It does make me worry though, what does it say about the human race and how far we have fallen that so many consume this sensationalism as though it is the air that they need to live? Reading a book like this where Rob Lowe's life was under media scrutiny for so long with things blown out of proportion and then seeing his perspective and how he minimises it, not making it the same fodder that gossip rags do, certainly paints a whole new picture. I think we should all wait for the autobiographies or memoirs to come out before we start judging.

Coming later this month...

Absolutely - Joanna Lumley

 I adore Joanna Lumley, she is just the perfect person to have been chosen to play Patsy Stone. I cannot ever imagine her as anyone else. Later this month I'll be sharing my thoughts on Joanna and her book Absolutely.

Rod: The Autobiography - Rod Stewart

When I think back, to who Rod Stewart was to me, I see a man in a shiny outfit with a coif that I have always thought was pretty cool. When I think of Rod Stewart now, I still think of his hair, but now I know that he is a lot more than his gorgeous hair and gravelly voice. Want to know what else I think, look out for my review later this month.

Moranthology - Caitlin Moran

From the woman who penned the iconic book 'How to be a Woman' I started reading her recollection of meeting Keith Richards, thoroughly entertained, I shall attempt to regale you in a similar fashion later this month with my thoughts on Moranthology.

What's your favourite autobiography or memoir? Or do these non-fiction books just not do it for you? I'd love to know what you think, and of course get some more recommendations!

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