Skip to main content

Book 30 of 52: Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Live 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 11 of 52: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

In my travels, I've accumulated photos in what I call the "Plants Where They Shouldn't Be" series. They're of weeds, flowers and trees growing in places that look uncomfortable: poking out of lava that's OK to walk on but warm enough to generate steam, growing around a mile marker on the road, sprouting on the back of a parking sign - that kind of thing. On the cheesy side, they're reminders that we can flourish in the most unlikely circumstances. On a more realistic end, they show that humans are constantly battling back nature, and that someday we'll probably lose the fight. I thought about those photos when I read  book 8 of 52 Station Eleven  (and watched  the HBO Max adaptation ), which show a world without 99.99 percent of our current human population. The story focuses on people, of course, but set them in a world where the things humans have created - electricity, internet, buildings, bridges, roads - are being taken back by nature. A Jersey Sh

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 5 of 52: Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

I don't always try to match my reading to what I'm doing, but when I go to Florida, I try to pack at least one Florida weird book. There was no better novel to bring with me to read on a ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park , than Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather . Hiaasen was writing about #floridaman before #floridaman was a thing (and when this - # - was the pound sign).  Stormy Weather is set in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, which is still the most destructive hurricane to have ever hit Florida, and only one of four hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. still at Category 5 strength. According to the Miami Herald , Hurricane Andrew destroyed 63,000 homes and damaged another 101,241. Such disasters bring out the best in humanity but also the worst. F raud flowed into South Florida in Andrew's wake . That's where  Stormy Weather comes in. From an advertising executive who yanks his new wife away from their Walt Disney World honeymoon to r