I’ve got three more memoirs to review here, and then I’ll be caught up with this category! Thank god for CBR Bingo y’all — I’ve only got 33 books left to review…
(4 stars) Too Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells
I’ll admit before starting this I didn’t have a clue who Rannells was. You might not either. It does not matter to enjoy this book — usually I like to read books by well-known actors because it gives a glimpse into behind the scenes of my favorite movies or TV shows. With Rannells, this story is so much more a coming of age tale than anything else. It’s also VERY well-written — I was absorbed from the start. In 1997, Rannells arrived in New York, fresh from Omaha and ready to begin his life “for real”. 20 years later, he’s best known for his role on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, and his TV role on HBO’s Girls. This book covers the time before he arrived in New York, and all the work he put into get his big break at age 26.
I really enjoyed his stories about the smaller shows he did, especially touring around the country. It’s so obvious that he LOVES what he does, and he put in so much work and time. The time he spent doing a Pokemon show (yes, Pokemon) was crazy. He got the part of James, and while he was unhappy with how they made him play into stereotypes for the voice, it allowed him to get some experience and pay his bills on the way to bigger and better things. He ended up doing quite a bit of voice-over work as a result, and broadened his horizons considerably.
The subtitle of A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood is apt here — Rannells makes plenty of mistakes along the way. Luckily he’s more than willing to share them with us.
(4 stars) Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears
Here’s another example of someone growing up feeling very isolated and lonely, until finally finding his tribe as an adult (and rocking it). Jake Shears was born Jason Sellards, and grew up in the 80s on an island in Washington. His conservative Baptist family had no clue what to do with him, and his classmates bullied him for his long hair and rather wild fashion sense. He left for college, and then moved to New York in the late 90s where he finally found his people — specifically, Scott Hoffman. Together they formed Scissor Sisters, a glam rock band where Shears’s outrageous sense of fashion and love for performance were finally an asset, not a liability.
Shears’s childhood was rough, and makes up a good portion of the book. He actually befriend Dan Savage after calling into his radio show numerous times to ask for advice about understanding and embracing his sexuality. Savage encouraged Shears to come out to his parents, which ended horribly — his parents were furious and things only got worse for Shears at home. Shears has since worked with Savage on his It Gets Better project. A lot of this book touches on subjects like being isolated or turned away for who you are as a person, and Shears seems like an excellent example of “it gets better”. He went from hustling money as a go-go dancer to having the best-selling album of the year in the UK. His story is nothing if not inspiring.
(4 stars) Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life by Michael Caine
Born in South London in the 1930s, Caine grew up in extreme poverty, which only worsened when his family was evacuated during WWII — a war that left his father in terrible shape. He started working at a very young age to help provide for his family, and served in the British army for several years in the 1950s. He talks quite a bit about his time in the service — it obviously influenced him for a long time and affected him deeply. It also toughened him up — when he started working as an actor in his early 20s, nothing a movie set could throw at him would faze him after spending fighting in Korea.
Caine has played many, many roles — on stage, on TV and in movies big and small. He talks about his big breaks and his tough times and how he got to where he is. He comes across as just a really good guy — does his job, loves his wife, behaves himself. I learned several interesting facts about Michael Caine while reading this book. One — Caine has been married to the same women since 1973 (I always had in my head that he was gay, which I’m assuming derives from the fact that while he’s an incredible actor with decades of fine work under his belt, Caine will always be Vic from Miss Congeniality in my head). He and his wife seem to be very much in love, and his stories about their relationship as well as his two daughters were super sweet and touching. Two — Michael Caine was FOXY (it’s those Colin Firth glasses, good lord). This book contains many pictures of a foxy Michael Caine. Go read it. You won’t be disappointed.