Tag Archives: Autobiography

Steve Martin – Born Standing Up (2007)

BornstandingupI didn’t really know what to expect from this book, and even while reading, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Upon further reflection however, I decided that this book is quintessentially Steve Martin.

First off, Martin takes himself a bit more seriously in his writing than I was expecting him to. He starts with stories about his life growing up, and his tumultuous relationship with his father, and his sister. He began working at Disney world at a young age where he got a taste of performing (originally in a magic shop) and decided that he wanted to be a performer. In his typical style however, Martin will often be telling a seemingly very heartfelt and touching story only to add a sarcastic comment right at the very end leaving the reading guessing as to his intentions.

Overall I really liked the insights that Martin’s memoirs provided into his life and into the comedy scene at the time. While I growing up, I was only ever familiar with Steve Martin as a movie actor, my parents always talked about how funny his stand up was. It was only in recent years that I have watched, and re-watched footage of a very young Steve Martin performing in comedy clubs and on Saturday Night Live. He writes very fondly about performing on SNL, the people there, and the routines he came up with. It was interesting to see the roots of his comedy routines, and all the factors that contributed to Martin’s very unique sense of humour.

Pattie Boyd – Wonderful Tonight (2007)

WonderfulTonightFor those unfamiliar with Pattie Boyd, she is most famous for being both the wife of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, inspiring a slew of famous songs in her wake (Something, Layla, Wonderful Tonight). In her memoirs she tells of her experiences with both men in her own words.

Obviously there are always different sides to different stories regarding what actually transpired. Pattie Boyd was probably slammed in the media for leaving George Harrison for Eric Clapton, and here in her own writing, Boyd has the chance to justify her actions, not that they need justification to begin with.

While Boyd is writing in a way that puts her in a slightly better light, I think that everyone has to acknowledge that being in a relationship with such creative people would not be an easy task. She details how difficult life was married to George, a member of the most influential rock band, and then with Eric Clapton. While sometimes the book can be a little too “woe is me,” I don’t think that Boyd is overstating the challenges she faced in her relationship with both these men.

What I liked the most about this book was the fact that even though Pattie Boyd was the inspiration behind so many famous songs, she does not take the credit for them and states quite openly that the songs were only written due to the immense talent that both these men possessed.

Overall I liked her writing and it provides a good insight into the world of the 1960s-1970s British rock scene.

Hillary Clinton – Hard Choices (2014)

hard-choicesI finished reading this just as Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the 2016 Presidential election. While I am thrilled with Hillary’s announcement and wish her all the best, her book, published last year, was clearly meant as a means to this end.

I hate political memoirs, I just find that there is something so disingenuous about them. They lack the passion that I hope to find in my reading and I normally avoid them at all costs. I made the exception here because A) I do admire Hillary Clinton a great deal, and B) She was doing a book signing at the Indigo around the corner so I had to buy the book.

Essentially the book serves as a way for Hillary to talk about, and justify, all the Hard Choices she had to make while Secretary of State. There were parts where her humour and passion come out, such as when talking about her friendships with various European leaders, (she talks about Nikolai Sarkozy as though he is her gay best friend), and the close bond she established with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition politician and human rights activist.

In addition the chapters spent talking about human rights, specifically for women and girls around the world were the most enjoyable as these are clearly causes that Clinton cares about. While the book had its shining moments, overall it was quite boring; just another political memoir to add in a candidate’s bid for Presidency.

Lesley Arfin – Dear Diary (2007)

DearDiaryI’ve read a bit of Lesley Arfin’s Vice column as well as a number of her thought catalog articles, although she is not someone that I follow religiously. This is such an interesting project and it makes me wish I had kept a diary so I could do something similar.

Essentially Lesley Arfin includes entries from her diary beginning in middle school up until College graduation. She annotates her entries with updates, interviews with the people mentioned and expert hindsight regarding certain events. Her entries deal with everything from crushes to being bullied, first boyfriends to ugly breakups, as well as her descent into drug use and addiction. It’s a bold move to publish the things you wrote as an angsty teenager, but Lesley takes it in stride and provides a really insightful look at growing up.

While I cant’ really identify with a lot of Lesley’s experiences, I think that there are definitely some girls out there who do, and should read Dear Diary to know that their not alone. Arfin mentions that this is one of the propelling forces behind her deciding to publish this book, and it’s a good call. Throughout her diary entries Arfin often notes how alone she feels, and if there a girls going through the same things that Arfin struggled with, it would be reassuring to know that they’re not alone.

Julie Klausner – I Don’t Care About Your Band (2010)

IDontCareAboutYourBandAnyone who reads this blog knows that I am a huge fan of funny books written by funny women. In her memoir, Julie Klausner shares what she has learned from dating her fair share of Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, Felons, and Other Guys.

My favourite chapter of hers is about how to handle dating a musician. I pulled two quotes that I thought were so brilliant.They show just how bitter and cynical she is, while also passing on some much needed wisdom.

“Your man will always love his bandmates in a way you can’t touch because they are the guys who help him create music. You can only help him create a living human being with your dumb uterus”

“Don’t you know that a musician who writes a song for you is like a baker your dating making you a cake? Aim higher” 

Klausner writes a bit like Chelsea Handler in detailing her outrageous escapades, but there is something a bit more subtle in her writing compared to Handler’s. Klausner is far more open and honest about her true feelings, she was genuinely hurt and heartbroken by a number of the guys she was involved with and lets the reader know it. It’s great, and there were so many times throughout this book where I identified with her. We’ve all been there, had our hearts broken by people who didn’t always deserve us, and its just always so reassuring to know that now matter what you’re feeling at the time, it will get better. Julie Klausner got through it and went on to write a fantastic book about it.

Lena Dunham – Not That Kind of Girl (2014)

NotThatKindofGirlI respect Lena Dunham, I admire her work, but unfortunately I just don’t relate to her. In most memoirs that I read I can find some chapter, or passage, or even the most passing reference that I can relate to. This was not the case. Lena Dunham has led such a different life and has experience so many different and unfamiliar things that I just couldn’t relate to anything she wrote about.

That being said, Lena is a fantastic writer; her book is written with an eloquence and grace that I was not quite expecting. She writes about traumatic experiences from her childhood with humour that can only be possessed by someone with the benefit od hindsight While I could not personally relate to her experiences with OCD, sleep disorders, therapy, and loneliness, they were written in a way that inspires understanding.

While Dunham does not write explicitly about her TV show Girls, one of the more fascinating parts of her book was seeing where the inspiration for certain story arcs and characters come from. Lena Dunham’s parents are both artists so she grew up with the New York art scene that Marnie is so separately trying to break in to. She spends one chapter writing about the antics that her and her two best friends caused while working at an upscale children’s boutique, Peaches and Babke. Her scenes translate directly to the episode(s) in Girls, which feature Jessa working as a sales clerk in an upscale children’s boutique, avoiding work at all costs. There are many other allusions to the show throughout her book and it was interesting to see where Lena has drawn her inspiration.

While I didn’t find Lena Dunham relatable, she writes with her own voice, in a very elegant and inspired way. There were certain parts of the book that I didn’t like, but overall Not that Kind of Girl, left a good impression.

Amy Poehler – Yes Please (2014)

YesPleaseFirst, I love Amy Poehler, I cannot stress that fact enough. I love her so much, and I wanted to love this book so much but I just couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book; funny and well-written, but it was just missing that certain something that makes a book like this amazing. Her stories and anecdotes fell flat for me, and there were times where I knew she was trying to be funny, but I just didn’t find it funny.

She spends a majority of her book complaining about how hard it is to write a book, or mentioning her divorce. Still, there are some shining moments and the stories she tells about being in drugs (Amy Poehler smoked a lot of weed), about Parks and Rec, and about her children were simply wonderful.

I was talking to some friends about my mixed feelings towards this book, and they all mentioned hearing that the audio book got rave reviews. I was intrigued, and even though I know Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are both immensely talented in everything they do; in my head Tina strikes me as more of a writer and Amy a performer. So I bought my first ever audio book with an itunes gift card from three Christmases ago.

The audiobook does make the story come alive. You get Amy, as well as a host of guest stars reading her book and getting off track with other conversations. I would highly recommend the audiobook for Amy I would highly recommend the audiobook for Yes Please, but also be warned that you do miss out on the pictures/doodles/art that are included within the pages of the physical book.