Skip to main content

Book 10 of 52: Putting the Rabbit in the Hat by Brian Cox

When I first started listening to the audiobook of Brian Cox's Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, I wasn't sure why I was there. I've watched Succession, sure, where he plays the media titan Logan Roy. I enjoy it, but but I'm not obsessed with it (I watched most of the show while running on a treadmill).

But I'd listened to Cox do Wait Wait...Don't Tell me, an NPR news quiz, and tell a story about how almost everyone at his first wedding got very drunk except for him, which was a bit of a problem since most of the guests were also starring in Romeo and Juliet, and they had a performance that night. Plus he and Michael Gambon (one of the drunk wedding guests ) also had a matinee performance of Othello. This might be worth giving him a few hours of my time, I thought, and then, when I was unsure about the book, worth sticking with it.

I was right. Putting the Rabbit in the Hat is the story of a poor kid from Scotland who became a working actor, and what he learned/saw along the way. A friend and I joke that all of British TV is made up of 10 actors and three sets, and he shows we're not far off. An incomplete lists of names he drops in the book: Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Alec Guinness, Natasha Richardson, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, Vanessa Redgrave, Ashley Judd, Ian McShane, Ed Norton, Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, Nigel Hawthorne, Keanu Reeves, and, of course, Steven Seagal. A scene with Seagal is the opening of the book. They starred in The Glimmer Man together (he later writes fondly of his string of action movies, but yes Seagal is weird). 

His resume included a couple of surprises, at least to me, including a 1995 traveling production of The Music Man. He was also in an unaired episode of the show Urban Myths, playing Marlon Brando along with Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and...Joseph Finnes as Michael Jackson. That last bit got the episode torpedoed, but you can see a trailer here

I like listening to celebrities read their memoirs. There's something to hearing Cox say "Harry Fucking Potter" that you wouldn't get by reading a physical copy of book (he said he was probably the only actor in England who wasn't in the series, and that he'd most likely have played Mad-Eye Moody, but Brendan Gleeson did a better job than he'd ever had done). And of all the celebrity memoirs I've listened to, this may be the most frank and honest. He doesn't hide from anything, including himself, and writes about how he was a bad husband and absent father to his first wife and their children from that marriage. He didn't do it in a self pitying way, or to drum up sympathy from the reader. He's a guy in his 70s looking back at his entire life, and saying "yeah, that's where I fucked up, maybe you can learn from me" (as he seems to have done himself with his second marriage).

Cox also doesn't hold back in writing about other people. He calls Johnny Depp "so overblown, so overrated," followed by "I mean, Edward Scissorhands. Let's face it, if you come out with hands like that and pale, scarred-face make-up, you don't have to do anything. And subsequently, he's done even less." He likes Ian McKellen as a person but doesn't like his kind of acting, called Ed Norton "a nice lad but a bit of a pain in the arse," said Michael Caine is also not his favorite, and that Quentin Tarantino is silly and superb. 

He also wrote about working with people he found were problematic after the fact (a thing I've also written about), and it came off as...fine? It was very much "I liked working with Woody Allen but..." and "Kevin Spacey is a talented actor but..." It didn't feel like he defending them but sharing his experiences while leaving space for listening to victims. He did, however, say very clearly that he was creeped out by Harvey Weinstein and lamented what Weinstein did to Ashley Judd's career (Cox and Judd starred together in Kiss the Girls). 

There's a bit about wokeness and cancel culture that had me rolling my eyes, but it felt more genuine than, for example, Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl writing about a party she went to with Mario Batali in her 2019 book Save Me the Plums, with an added bit about #metoo that felt forced into the book by an editor and/or lawyer (she also side stepped questions about Batali in a few book-related interviews, including one in the LA Times). I have a pretty good bullshit meter, and none of what Cox wrote felt malicious or aggrandizing. It was more what a self-professed "dinosaur" who also calls Spike Lee one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and made sure to use Eddie Izzard's correct pronouns might write when trying to make sense of the world.

I liked it. You may too.

Like this post? Buy Jen a cup of coffee.

Disclosure: links are affiliate links.


Popular posts from this blog

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro