A Memoir by Alan Cumming

I have been a fan of Scotsman, Alan Cumming since the first time I saw him on The Good Wife. His character, Eli Gold, is endearing and a hoot, a combination that Cumming exudes (as I found out) in reality. When I chanced upon his memoir, Not My Father’s Son, I was curious to learn another dimension of him from the one the T.V. world provided. With a flair for the dramatic, perhaps equal parts natural and spurred on by his background in theatre (he has played some fascinating roles!), Cumming narrates some very tense moments in his life.

There were more things I liked about this book than I thought I would. For one, Cumming is an undeniable virtuoso at the way he tweaks language to convey different thoughts. His writing style is more poetry than one might expect, and I was drawn to the way he describes mundane moments and everyday feelings with such creative aplomb. My lexicon was stretched reading words and sentences spun at different geometric angles to think about life patterns in a myriad of ways. Through his writing style, Cumming delivers not just his attraction to the dramatic, but other bits of his personality that you are likely to fall in love with. He is a challenger of the conventional at every turn, and not just with his words, but more so with the minutiae of his actions.

Another reason I liked this book was because Cumming is very candid in his evaluations of his life. I wanted to hug the man as I read his words! Cumming is never bitter, never malicious in his retelling of the pain he suffered as a child. He is loving, kind, and even understanding of his father’s inflicted pain on him, all the while being brave and unaccepting of future attempts to be hurt.

Perhaps the only mild criticism I have of this book is that it read more as an introspection and inspection, than with much attention to its having a readership. At times I found Cumming to be ruminating in things when I willed him to move on. At these moments, I felt a bit ‘stuck’ in my reading and agitated at not being allowed to make inferences of my own. However, I realize that this is a memoir and therefore an expression of Cumming’s rather painful journey to achieving healing, and an audience was not a priority in its making. As a writer myself (a novice one at that), I recognize this need to write for expression and healing. In the same vein, Cumming chose to share his writing on a larger scale to needle out the stigma around suffering the shame and life-destroying effects of domestic violence, as he says “Writing this book and knowing it will be discussed around the world is in some way insurance for me that my story will never be thought of as commonplace, never acceptable…”. And yes, I know that in seeing the other side of the coin, my criticism invalidates itself.

This book provides poignant insights into issues of domestic violence, child abuse, mental health and the effects of war on a person’s psyche. Cumming’s larger-than-life personality is magnetic, and his sentences are poised to capture your every sense.

This book review also (like Shania’s autobiography) does not get a rating, because it is not writing for me to chalk up to a score. If you are a fan of Alan Cumming though, I reckon you’re already looking for a way to get your hands on this book. It will make you love the man even more.

©booksnnooks.org All Rights Reserved