Monday, August 30, 2010

My ready wead

I still remember my first exposure (if you will) to Russell Brand. I was vacationing in London and leafing through the complimentary copy of The Guardian newspaper while eating breakfast. Most of the articles had small journalist photos next to them. Sort of like this guy's (just for illustrative purposes). So anyway, I'm half asleep, buttering my toast and leafing through the newspaper when I turn the page, and the journalist's photo next to a column appears to be that of a pirate. As all of the other journalist photos were, well, somewhat bland, suddenly seeing a pirate fixing you with his steely glare was somewhat alarming. Of course, I had to read the accompanying column. I don't remember what it was about at all, but I do remember that it was hilarious. I knew I had to do some further research on this Russell Brand bloke when I got back to the US.

At this point, he was still doing a radio show, so I listened to some of the programs and found them to be quite funny -- once I got over the somewhat jarring (on first listen) Essex accent! Of course, I knew that he'd had quite the history with drug and sex addiction, so I was interested to read his account of his early years in My Booky Wook.

Let's just say that Russell likes to share. A bit too much. I would think that when writing our memoirs, most of us would want to paint ourselves in the most positive light, or leave out anything too embarrassing. Using that as a guideline, I'd hate to find out what was deemed "too outrageous" for this book!

Brand was born in the Essex town of Grays in 1975. His parents split up almost immediately, so he came from the requisite "dysfunctional family situation." His father was never in the picture much, and his mother had frequent bouts of cancer which required young Russell to be packed off to relatives. Eventually, his mother remarried, and, unsurprisingly, the step-father isn't too keen on Russell. There are boarding schools, borderline sexual abuse (not by the step-father), and random acts of cruelty from adults (this was by the step-father, among others). All of this added up to a young man who was cripplingly insecure (believe it or not) and generally unhappy. Luckily, in secondary school he participated in a play where he discovered his love of performing.

Between that first stage experience and his more recent success, however, there were many bumps along the road: multiple arrests (shoplifting and drugs), semi-homelessness, addiction, bouts self-harming, expulsions from stage schools, etc. All of these events are related in a way that seems to show that Brand has distanced himself from destructive behavior like that, while at the same time seeming to indicate that this behavior was perfectly normal and natural at the time. He does come across as extremely non-judgemental, to the point of continually being astounded that others take offense at his sometimes outrageous behavior.

He also relates his experiences with drugs, particularly heroin, as well as his downward spirals which led to separate stays in rehab facilities for drugs and sex-addiction. He had already achieved some success on television and as a stand-up performer before an agent forced him into rehab. It was interesting to me that it seemed as if everything "took" on the first try. For someone who had lived most of his life to that point as an addict, it seems amazing that Brand was able to beat his addictions fairly quickly. It seems as if his determination to succeed in his career was enough of a motivating factor for him to resist relapse.

The book is very funny in some parts and is clearly written in Brand's style. It is an enjoyable, if somewhat eye-opening, read!
Final Verdict for My Booky Wook: Three Gherkins, for being an engaging look at a unique performer

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