Skip to main content

Book 30 of 52: Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life by Alan Cumming

I'm a big fan of taking long road trips. Since I flew to Texas to buy my 2002 Jeep Wrangler TJ and drove it home to New Jersey without really knowing how to drive stick - and didn't die in the process - I've found the appeal of taking a very long drive. 

But those long drives are often boring. Music alone doesn't cut it for me, and NPR repeats itself after a while. In 2014, when I took that long Texas drive home, we didn't have as many podcasts as we do now. So before my flight, I went to my library and checked out a "book on tape," which was then a CD. 

I was so intensely focused on trying to drive a new to me car in a new to me way that I didn't think I could concentrate on whatever the book was about (something historical, probably about English royalty). So I opted for whatever I could find on the radio to accompany me through my white knuckle driving.

By the time I took a road trip to Asheville, N.C. a year later, I could (mostly) drive the car, and I'd also learned that I could check out audiobooks via a library app and play them through my phone. Game changer. 

This is a very long windup to say that Alan Cumming's 2014 memoir, Not My Father's Son, was the very first audiobook I read to that way (and yes, it's reading, none of that ableist nonsense here). Listening to him read his own book, in a Scottish accent I never knew he had, was ear opening about the possibilities of audiobooks in this format. 

It was so much easier than using a CD that sometimes got stuck in my car's old sound system, or checking out a brown plastic box of tapes, as I'd done as a teenager at the regional branch of our county library, to shove into a Walkman to hopefully drown out the noises of the other five people in the van on whatever drive we were taking. Overdrive, which became the Libby app, lowered the barrier to getting into this very important book form.

I checked out Not My Father's Son expecting a dishy show business book, but it's about Cumming's childhood growing up in an abusive household. I cried on the drive while listening to it. What a harrowing tale, as told by the actor himself. "Celebrities reading their own memoirs" has become one of my favorite audiobook genres.

Cumming's new memoir, Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life, is more what I expected going into Not My Father's Son. The events of this book are sandwiched between the breakdown of his first marriage and the formation of his second. He writes about being a Scottish actor taught to hide where he's from in order to make it in British entertainment; winning a Tony; how much he loved doing movies like Spice World, Josie and the Pussycats and Spy Kids; his sexuality (he's bisexual - first marriage was to a woman, second to a man) and how he chooses roles. 

After the tense experience making X2: X-Men United (which is a part of the book all the entertainment sites covered), he made up a "bank" system. He makes deposits into the bank by doing big Hollywood projects, which in turn allows him to make withdrawals when he wanted to do less commercial but more personally fulfilling work. 

Right after I finished the book, the trailer for My Old School dropped, where Cumming acts the role of Brandon Lee, a huckster, in a documentary by lip synching to Lee's recorded audio interview. It's weird - you have to see it. He's also in Vancouver filming the second second of Schmigadoon! which I loved. Are these deposits? Withdrawals? Both? Who cares, I'm glad he's happy. It's an interesting way to think about creative work, and funding it.

The memoirs are very different, and excellent in their own ways. It seems he left the door open to a third one because of where he stops this book. If so, I'll be listening. 

(And if your audiobook habit grows, as mine has, I also recommend Libro.fm. I haven't completely de-Amazoned my life, but going there for audiobooks instead of Audible [which sometimes gets authors into contracts where their audiobooks can't be heard on any other platform] is a good step that also supports independent bookstores). 

Like this post? Buy Jen a cup of coffee.

Disclosure: Bookshop.org links are affiliate links.

Comments

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