Thursday, December 30, 2010

Craig Ferguson, American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot, 2009.

I’m not sure what attracted me to Ferguson’s autobiography: I’m a fan neither of celebrity autobiographies nor of addiction memoirs, but something made me want to read this one. I’m glad I did. Ferguson’s self-deprecating humour and wry observations combine with a level of candour and openness that make for an engaging personal history. We meet his parents and his family, and learn of his yearning to be American (with a very sweet NASA story along the way), before following him into a descent into alcoholism and drumming. Fans of The Late Late Show won’t be surprised that he learns that he loves to make people laugh, leading to a career in both stand-up and film before getting sober with the help of some friends, with a first American sojourn along the way. (It is astonishing to read of both the depths of his alcoholism and his ability to remain employed.) Finally, he finds his way to LA and projects in both film and television, before landing his current gig. There’s a sweetness to the book and its stories, even when Ferguson is sharing his fear of ducks brought on by a bad acid trip (a story that’s changed and reworked in his novel, Between the Bridge and the River, blogged about here). There’s also no shortage of can-do American Dream-fulfilled optimism that shapes the telling. What you’ll read is entirely congruent with the voice you may have experienced when the sandman’s at your door and you’re watching his show anyway, and it will entertain you even as it speaks revealingly about addiction and how Ferguson has addressed it in his life.

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