Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “brat pack”

faintingviolet’s #CBR4 review #19 : Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

You see celebrities of various stripes telling you about the latest book they’ve written on television or hear them on radio or see the advertisements as you bounce around the internet. Generally I think to myself, well I’m sure that’ll be interesting to someone and decide to leave it alone. For instance, this happened just the other night when Billy Bob Thornton was on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson shilling for his new book. This conversely was not the case when I saw Rob Lowe talking about his own memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends. For a reason I have not yet been able to identify this time I thought, hey that looks intriguing.

And honestly, it was.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends covers Lowe’s life from its beginnings in Virginia and Ohio to about the time he leaves The West Wing in 2003. Admittedly there’s a throw away paragraph outlining how he feels about being able to do dramatic and comedic work simultaneously in the post West Wing years (Brothers & Sisters and Parks and Rec respectively). While Lowe’s is an entertaining tale with the usual missteps I think the thing that caught me perhaps the most off guard was how much the public figure of ‘Rob Lowe the movie star’ did not line up with Rob Lowe saw himself, particularly in the 1980s.

The beginning of the autobiography tends to bounce around a little as far as chronology, generally hitting the memories that stand out to Rob about how he grew into the person he is and also the memories and early experiences of an actor. It had not occurred to me that someone could feel so compelled to act at such a young age as Lowe did. I guess I always thought child actors enjoyed what they did because in some ways it’s the best game of make believe ever, but I simply didn’t assign the idea of a professional drive to someone so young. Maybe I was wrong (completely possible) or maybe Lowe is remembering the way he wants. Either can be true, and either can be valid.

As far as tone this is a very open memoir in most ways. Lowe published this book after the death of his mother and he is very frank about his relationship with her and her ongoing health issues. He is less frank about his relationships with his brothers, but as they are alive and well and generally not part of his acting career it makes sense that they be excused the spotlight. Lowe talks honestly about how he felt during the ‘Brat Pack’ article’s publication and being perhaps the first celebrity with a sex tape and speaks openly about what led to his alcoholism and subsequent sobriety. But perhaps the most interesting thread woven throughout the memoir is that of the experiences along the way – the people, the work, the politics both Washington D.C. and California based that inform who Rob Lowe ultimately is.

Much of the book is a trip down his IMDb page as he remembers it. The great part of this for me was the introduction to movies or projects I had missed (I was too young to see most of the movies Lowe starred in during his early career as they were released) as well as realizing that Lowe’s tone is a nice cross between two of my favorite characters of his – Sam Seaborn and Robert McCallister. This one’s worth a read if you are a Lowe fan generally speaking or a consumer of pop culture autobiographies, although it’s only getting two stars because while I appreciate that Lowe did his own writing, its not as polished as you might hope.

This review is cross-posted

rusha24’s #CBR4 review #10: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Before reading Bright Lights, Big City my only experience with the so-called Brat Pack of the eighties was reading Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. I didn’t particularly like it, but I could appreciate what he was doing—satirizing a certain demographic and culture—and the skill with which he did it. I feel pretty much the same way about Jay McInerney’s debut novel. I’m glad to have read it, since it’s one of the most famous American novels written in the second person POV and certainly carries an undeniable cultural cachet. I suppose it’s praise to say that the book is sleek, superficial, and fairly weightless, since that’s exactly the type of people McInerney set out to capture.

The book was published in 1984, and is set around the same time—the mid eighties. We’re thrown into the New York City yuppie party scene by way of our unnamed main character, a fact checker for some famous magazine (likely The New Yorker) by day, and a hedonistic, cocaine-snorting asshole the rest of the time. His model wife has recently left him, a fact he tells no one, and in the wake of her abandonment he sinks quickly into a vortex of sleepless days, pathetic romantic fumblings, Bolivian marching powder, embarrassments at work, and general self-pity. Personal backstory, a mother’s illness for instance, is revealed late in the book, presumably in an attempt to humanize our character and compel us to root for his salvation.

I never could figure out just what about this book required it being told in second person, yet I still was consistently impressed with how well McInerney pulls it off. His writing is economical and crisp, acerbic and often very witty. It’s very clear from this, his first novel, that he has tremendous talent. But it doesn’t change the fact that his protagonist—and by virtue of the point of view, one we’re supposed to identify strongly with—spends much of the book being a weak, self-absorbed prick. I get that this is intentional, as McInerney was clearly trying to say something about a generation of fast lane, ferociously entitled cokeheads. That collection of people represents an extremely unappealing and pretty disgusting part of modern American culture to be sure, and I guess it’s to the book’s credit that it so deftly portrays this. But as clever and accurate as it may be, it didn’t make for an enjoyable reading experience (personally).

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