Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Spit and Passion by Cristy C Road

Rating: WARTY!

This is yet another LGBTQIA coming of age graphic novel and while I'm pretty sure I;m not the audience the author was seeking to impress, I'm sorry to have to report that I was not, in fact, impressed by it.

I've read many of this kind of autobiography, and they've all had a story to tell, but whereas some are outgoing and relatable even for a cis male(!), others are more a personal or even self-centered odyssey which don't seem interested in opening up or being inclusive in any way. These may well play to a segment of the population, and if they do, that's fine, but if they do, I'm not a part of it, not even indirectly, so I can't speak to it. All I can relate is what it said to me and in this case, it said very little of interest, nothing that was new or engaging.

I hate to be negative about a book like this, but I guess you can't love 'em all, especially not if the author doesn't seem interested in being loved as a writer or artist and who, instead of bringing an audience in to share her story with her, seems more interested in what's almost an internal monolog, rattling on without caring if there's an audience tuning in or not which to me, frankly, seems a bit creepy. i mean, whatever trips your ship is fine, but I've never seen the point of writing any story, fiction or no, if all you're going to do is tell the same story that's already been told and add nothing new or particularly interesting, so against my ordinarily natural inclination, and while I wish the author all the best in her endeavors, I can't rate this as a worthy read.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

Rating: WARTY!

I watched a couple of Chelsea Handler's TV shows and while they were mildly entertaining, they were not enough to make me want to keep on watching. I picked up this book out of curiosity since it was on close-out, but when I read it, I was far less impressed with this than with the TV show. I now have absolutely zero interest in this woman!

The biographical stories were boring and juvenile and presented like she was the only one that anything remotely like this had ever happened to. I had no interest in what she wrote and took quickly to skimming and finding less and less to engage me the further I went into it. In short order, I gave up on it entirely.

Does anyone really want to read about her OCD with masturbation at the age of eight? Do we really find it funny that someone pulled a prank on her that she'd killed a dog? I have zero interest in any of this juvenile stupid behavior and I cannot recommend this, not remotely, not even if you're actually a dog-handler from Chelsea in London.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Jake Shears, aka Jason Sellards, is a founding member of Scissor Sisters and while I'm not a huge fan of the band, I do like some of their music, in particular, I Can't Decide (the third track on their second album, Ta-Dah), which I think is brilliant, and deliciously bitchy. I'm rather interested in how people go from an everyday life to a stage performer in a band, so I was initially interested to read this, but I found it to be a real disappointment. I read it to fifty percent, and then skimmed to about 70% and gave up on it after that.

The band part of this memoir doesn't appear until the halfway mark and it's very thin. That part of the story doesn't truly get underway until about 70% and even then it's not as interesting as I'd hoped. The first half is taken up with the author's childhood and his college days. This part was slightly depressing. He went through a lot and had a lot to put up with, but that said, there really was nothing here that scores of other men and women haven't had to face, particularly if they're in the LGBTQIA community, so this didn't bring anything new to the table.

What bothered me about this, apart from the author never really seeming to want for money!) was that he appeared to have learned nothing from these events, or if he did, he sure wasn't interested in sharing his insights and thoughts on the topic. This was one problem with the book - it read less like a diary even, than it did a daily planner, with a litany of events and people trotted out, yet none of it had any depth, resonance, introspection or observation.

I never felt like I really got to know the author. We were kept largely at arm's length (as indeed was his "best friend" Mary, it would seem), and learned of him only through what he obsessed on or what seemed important as measured by how much space and repetition he gave to it. Judged by that latter criterion, casual sex and partying are his greatest loves. This second-hand perspective delivered an impression of shallowness and inconstancy, as though we were reading about the natural history of a gadfly rather than a person's life. As the New York City portion of the story ever unfurled, things only deteriorated. It felt like the story became even more shallow.

He was there to pursue a degree, but even when he got it, he did nothing with it. Admittedly the job market wasn't great, but what was the point fo the college education? From what we're told here, he was far more interested in dressing up, dancing, partying, and picking up guys than ever he was in a career.

His musical forays happened pretty much by accident and in a very desultory way to begin with, like he couldn't be bothered unless it fell into his lap, as it actually did in effect - at least that's the impression he left. I know the author has no control over the blurb their book gets, but this blurb mentions "...a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little sympathy." That kind of thing is entirely inappropriate and all-too-common, but what the blurb doesn't mention is what the author tells us, about how he liked to dress out even though he hadn't yet come out. This must have attracted entirely the wrong kind of attention.

And if you think a person ought to be able to dress how they wish, then I completely agree with you, but we don't live in a perfect world. In the world we do inhabit, one populated with ignorant jackasses and moronic dicks, this freedom brings a price and that price is exactly what the author suffered: bullying and little sympathy. A bit more attention to the wisdom of certain modes of dress and certain behaviors might have saved him a lot of this hassle. But the real problem here is that he doesn't talk about this in any detail, or offer any thoughts or insights here any more than he does on any other such topic. Maybe how he behaved and dressed would have made no difference, but we'll never know because it's one more important discussion we don't get from the author; one more cogent observation we're denied.

The casual sex was rife and disturbing. At first we're told it was oral only, which isn't exactly safe sex, but then we're not told anything about it other than it happens - frequently, and with a variety of one night stands and some dating in between. There is nary a mention of safe sex even though AIDS is mentioned. Even here though, the topic is dealt with so cursorily that it was like the ongoing AIDs problem never really happened or if it did, it impinged very little on his life or on the life of anyone he knew. I didn't expect the author to keep harping on it (or on any other topics for that matter), but I did expect to feel something of the impact of it and how it was dealt with, and how he felt about it all, but again we;re denied that.

There's really no mention of disease concerns or risks from casual sex, and there ought to have been, even if the author never had any such problems himself. As it is, it looks like not only the author, but no one he knew ever had any issues. Maybe that was the case, but it's hard to believe. As it is, the author plays right into homophobic stereotypes of the gay community and that's never a good course to follow, especially from the pen of someone who liked to plow his own furrow, so to speak.

One issue with memoirs for me is: how can someone recall events and conversations with such clarity from years before? I know some people can, and I know some people conflate several events into one for the sake of brevity and moving the story along, and this is fine, but nowhere are we told whether these particular recollections are amalgamations, or if they happened word for word (or close enough), or if they're simply impressions with some dramatic license taken. It would have been nice had a word been said about that. There are some events which feel like they would leave an indelible impression such that recall, even if a bit vague, would be authentic, but most of what we're told here wasn't of that nature, so I have to wonder how reliable some of this is, and I guess I found out. More on this later.

Starting with New York, the name-dropping became so rife in this book that the din from it was a distraction from the actual story, and it seems to serve little purpose except for the author to say, "Hey, look at all these people I know!" It felt so pretentious, and there were so many repeated mentions of going to parties and spending the night with guys he just met that the whole thing quickly began to feel sickeningly self-indulgent, shallow, thoughtless, tedious, and even dangerous.

This shallowness really came to the fore when the events of 9/11 were related. He was in New York City when the planes hit the towers, but none of that seemed to make any impact on him, because all we got was a brief paragraph sandwiched in between a night he spent with three other guys and a complaint that because of the fall of the towers, it was hard to party in the city and parties had to move out to the suburbs! The author didn't specifically say that himself; someone else did, but his lack of any sort of commentary on that attitude appalled me.

The shallowness he displayed over this entire thing was sickening. He was living within a few blocks of the event and saw part of it happen from the roof of his apartment block, and this one short paragraph and a couple of mentions later was it. I didn't expect him to agonize over it and put ashes in his hair and rend his clothes or anything like that, but his mention of it was so fleeting and cursory that it seemed like it was just another party in a long line of parties he attended - or perhaps more accurately another hangover after one such party. It's almost like he said, "Oh well, that's that, let's get dressed for the next fancy dress party!" This really turned me off the author. Another such incident was the New York blackout. That turned out to be just another opportunity to party, pick up a guy he didn't even really like for a one-night-stand, and that was it. Even then we got more about that than we did about 9/11!

I was ready to quit reading this memoir at the halfway point, but I still had read nothing about the band as such, so I pressed on. It was right around this point that it looked like the forming of the band was about to get going, but even then the story about it was awfully thin and sketchy, lacking any depth or insights, and it was still riven with never-ending tales of casual sex and partying. The monotony of it all made me uncomfortably numb, and I started skipping everything that didn't touch directly on the band from then onward. It was this that I was interested in, and I honestly felt cheated out of it by this point.

In the end I simply gave up on it. I honestly did not care about this shallow life I was seeing stretch-out meaninglessly across screen after screen. I cared about the music and the band and the dynamic and the energy, and we got so little of that, and almost nothing about the other band members. In the end it was a Scissor Sister, in the singular, and it was disappointing because it seemed to suggest that the very thing he had been heading towards since page one meant so little to the author that he could barely bring himself to write about it.

It was around this time that I read, "I hadn't had a boyfriend since Dominick" and this was just a screen or two after he'd told us he was dating a guy named Mark. Was Mark a girlfriend then, or is dating someone not the same as having a boyfriend?! What this confirmed for me was how unreliable this book was: something I touched on earlier in this review. One of the many names dropped in the book was Amanda Lepore, and I read her memoir some time ago and found it to be just as shallow as this one was. I'm now really soured on celebrity memoirs! Maybe if Ana Matronic wrote one I might be tempted to read it, but other than that, I'm done with this kind of thing. I wish the Scissor Sisters all the best in their career, but I cannot in good faith recommend a book like this.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Mei Mei by Ed Young

Rating: WORTHY!

A mei mei is a little sister and Antonia wants one. Her mama and baba fly to China to adopt one, and then Antonia realizes it's a problem because her mei mei now gets all the attention she's been used to! Worse, she can’t hang out with Antonia because she can neither walk nor talk! She just kind of lies there demanding to be changed and fed! What fun is that?

This is rather a personal story from the author, reminiscing indirectly about his own childhood. Since he's called Young, was his little sibling named Younger?! But don't worry, Antonia over time comes to love and appreciate her sister. I think this is a great story, gorgeously illustrated and well worth reading, even for an adult. I recommend it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Title: The Dragon Business
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

My blog is nearly all about fiction - writing it, reading it, watching it, but once in a while I blog non-fiction. In this case, I'm assuming that this is mostly non-fiction, but I admit that sometimes I wondered, because this novel/biography has the same issues that I have with first person PoV fiction: how can the narrator possibly recall all these events in such detail?

It's not possible for someone to recall conversations not only word-for-word, but also the nuances attached to those words. At best you can have an impression, which may not even be accurate, of an exchange, and that's what I'm assuming went on here. Even if you keep a detailed diary, it's never that detailed! Even if you wrote the conversation down shortly after it occurred, you can't recall it that precisely. That said, this book was endlessly entertaining, enlightening in some parts, and LoL hilarious at times.

There were some portions which fell flat for me, but very few. It helped that Moran is British so I had many common reference points with her which may be lost on American readers, although some of her writing is surprisingly mid-Atlantic. Maybe the UK has gone over to the American side a lot more than it had when I lived there.

Essentially, this story is highlights (or low-lights if you like) from Caitlin's (real name Catherine, pronounced Catlin - you'll have to read it to figure that out!) youth to the present (present when it was written, of course!), but with the focus tightly on feminine issues. She begins with her period making her see red, followed closely by public hair (well, it was pubic, but it's not now she's written a best-selling book about it...), and from there she rants on about breasts, feminism, bras, panties, obesity, genderism, love, marriage, abortion, role models, and fashion.

I highly recommend this. It beats anything else that I've ever read on feminism, and it has some new and interesting points of view to share.