I have always preferred real life to fiction. Growing up the stories I would beg my mother to tell me over and over again were the ones about her family and growing up in the Deep South. Handsome princes and happily ever after were nothing compared to stories about Herman the rooster, and relatives named Titto, Junior, and Aunt (pronounced Aint) Minnie. This could be why I gravitate to biographies in my choice of reading material. As a teenager my favorites were Anne Edwards’ Vivien Leigh, Katherine Hepburn’s Me, and Lauren Bacall’s By Myself. At sixteen I dreamed of becoming a combination of these women. Odd that none of them could carry a tune in a bucket, but at the time I was planning to devote myself to being a “serious actress”. These were the books that helped to see what was possible. No one in my family was a performer, and I really didn't know anyone who made the arts their living, so these books and a few hundred others like them, gave me my first inklings of what it took to turn myself into a performer. I still have my original battered copies of these books. I don’t need them for the same reasons anymore, but I keep them like I keep the broken blue bowl that my mother served mashed potatoes in at every holiday because somehow they’ve become a part of me. Maybe not in the way I originally planned, but they’re there all the same.
I still find real life more fascinating that fiction and I still read more biographies than anything else. Some of my recent favorites are:
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – I should say something along the lines of “A wonderful primer on building a career from the ground up”, which it certainly is, but more than that it’s just a great read!
Tallulah: the Life and Times of a Leading Lady by Joel Lobenthal: Tallulah Bankhead was one of the most fascinating theatrical divas EVER!!!
Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir by Shalom Auslander: Not a performer’s bio, but a writer’s. It made me laugh out loud and cry, sometimes all at once.
So here’s the challenge for May…We want you to share your favorite artist biographies/autobiographies with us. Which ones have you loved? Why? Post it here on the blog in the comments section and you could be the one chosen at Random for this Month’s RedHead Award, a copy of Girls Like Us- Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller.