I got caught reading Craig Ferguson's memoir, American on Purpose, today. What I said to the educated professional thumbing through my diversion was, "You should've caught me Monday. I was reading about Shakespeare, which is much more impressive." The first part of that's true.
He visibly agreed with the latter, because while he thumbed, I got the same upturned nose I'd expect to earn if I were to greet Queen Elizabeth in ripped jeans. This educated professional wasn't about to sign up for my (nonexistent) reading club, let's say. But I didn't feel guilty about my book pick. Here's why: I'm unabashedly fascinated by people who are talented, create their own chaos-to-fame personal-history arcs, dress well, adhere to professionalism, fashion good stories, and cherry-pick verbs. People like this are my Kryptonite. They weak-knee me. I can't help it. Tried. Ask about any of my boyfriends: storytellers, all. I'm a hopeless. Hooked. Comedian. Junkie.
More educated people should be -- shamelessly.
Here's the related rub: The traits above tend to be hallmarks of high-quality comedians, with or without memoirs: Robin Williams, George Carlin, Russell Brand, Yakov Smirnoff -- name 'em -- and yes: Craig Ferguson. Deal with this overlap if you haven't. The strict professionalism demanded of comedians even gives them a leg up on other writers. (Writers have other legs up. One of them should kindly conjure a better analogy than "legs up" because I've ignored nature's limit, though the sentiment stands.)
Some literature connoisseurs consider comedians' memoirs shallow. Can be. But not always. Often, thoughtfulness operates the cogs back stage. A colossal amount of work separates this sublime stuff from that Snooki or Kardashian crap. (Honestly, I don't know more about those two than their names, and I'm only apathetically curious about whether I've spelled those correctly.) Anyone caring enough to look for the differences in quality of media can spot them. Bottom line: I spent no more than four seconds feeling guilty about reading American on Purpose. Because really, the book's effing awesome. I'm sure Shakespeare wouldn't have giveneth a rat'th ath about being superceded by this Scotsman's tome. (Why not conjecture about Shakespeare? Everyone else who writes about writers does.)
Besides, any young person abandoning the glowy-screen for a book is taking a positive step. Not a major accomplishment. More like eating vegetables: Effortful, but not headline worthy. A footnote, maybe. Still, the act makes some of us young people feel like kings and queens on their birthdays while winning the Nobel Prize, worthy of being showered with confetti and handshakes and a certificate. In reality, we preppy twerps should probably just feel lucky our peers aren't taking offense.
Then again, what am I writing? To thine own self be true. No Bill Clinton apology for my bookshelf today. Instead, a Plato apology. Get it?
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