Nonfiction: Autobiography

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

I never knew much about Craig Ferguson – I liked him well enough on The Drew Carey Show and every now and then someone would link to an episode of his show which I would watch – usually because he was interviewing someone I was interested in. But I found myself becoming intrigued by Craig instead. His show is on far too late for me to watch, though I sincerely wish I could get by on less sleep so I could stay up for it. Then somebody posted a review of his autobiography, recommending it as a good read.

Helpless to resist, I immediately went to the bookshop. But then I thought “Wait a minute. You know what would be better? Having the silver fox himself read it to me.” Instead of kidnapping Craig Ferguson, though, I did the next best thing. I bought the audiobook!

Now I think I’ve mentioned on here that I do sometimes have trouble with audiobooks. I love my Jerome K. Jerome audiobooks (particularly the one read by Hugh Laurie – shame that it’s edited – and the one read by some guy that I don’t know but features Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s [whose parents were a bit greedy in the name department I feel] “Frolic” but I will even listen to the one read by Marvin Jarvis even though he makes J and George and Harris sound very snooty and superior with one another and not at all how they do in my head [which is usually the main problem I have with audiobooks in general]) and my Harry Potter ones (don’t make me choose between Jim Dale and Stephen Fry, I just can’t!) and Jon Stewart’s America the Audiobook always makes me laugh. But there are others that I’m not so fond of – The Know-It-All whose author/reader, A.J. Jacobs, who sounds super-scripted which, yes, I know he is, but the others don’t make it sound that way and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson who has the most passive voice ever (I love you, Bill, but I can’t listen to you!). But also I find them hard to pay attention to – reading is too much a visual activity for me, I guess, and if my eyes aren’t occupied in snatching up the words from the page for me (I know that’s a disturbing visual, but it’s the best way I can think of to describe it), I find myself drifting off and thinking about other things.

Fortunately, not so with Craig. Not only did I get to listen to his lovely, lovely Scottish accent for seven hours, it really felt like he was telling me his autobiography rather than reading it. But all of that could have not made up for poor writing. Not that it had to. On the contrary, his writing! Oh, his writing! He is thoughtful and articulate and thoughtful and funny and thoughtful and honest.

And thoughtful.

Now, I don’t mean thoughtful like kind or generous or whatever – I mean, I like to think that he is, but obviously I have no way of knowing. I mean thoughtful like he has obviously thought a lot about his life and the things that he’s done and the things that he is doing and why he did them and why he thought he was doing them at the time. I don’t know if this is a result of writing your autobiography or just his personality or even a habit he picked up during his time in rehab, but I really, really like it (and he comes across this way on his show, too, so I’m going with it’s just how he thinks). Because instead of just listing off the things that have made his life amazing (and it is – I find him amazing) and adventurous, he obviously is aware of just how lucky he is to have experienced not just life but his life in particular.

And his honesty! Again, I don’t actually know whether or not he’s being honest – the whole thing could be made up for all I know – but I think one of the reasons that I find his writing literally beautiful is that it is truthful (OMG, Keats was right!). I think he has an earnest way with words, whether he’s talking about growing up in Glasgow, his difficulties with drugs and alcohol, his attempts to find his niche, his relationships, or his decision to become an American citizen, I feel like he’s deliberately outlining his experiences and thoughts for the reader which creates a deep and trusting connection between himself and us.

My rating: A

I’m going to have to see if there’s an audiobook version of Stephen Fry’s autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, because if there’s one thing that I think I might enjoy even more than listening to Craig Ferguson tell me about his life is Stephen Fry telling me about his.

Also, note to Eddie Izzard: I hope you’re working on your autobiography because you are in spot number 3 on this list.