Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life by Alan Cumming

It wasn’t as good as seeing Alan in concert, but I’ll take it! Get ready to be well and truly impressed by this talented man.


SYNOPSIS

An intimate look at the making of a man, an actor, an advocate–and most importantly–a happy human being. A wonderful book that is funny, honest, fearless, and generous in its vulnerability. Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain

There is absolutely no logical reason why I am here. The life trajectory my nationality and class and circumstances portended for me was not even remotely close to the one I now navigate. But logic is a science and living is an art. 

The release I felt in writing my first memoir, Not My Father’s Son, was matched only by how my speaking out empowered so many to engage with their own trauma. I was reminded of the power of my words and the absolute duty of authenticity.

But…

No one ever fully recovers from their past. There is no cure for it. You just learn to manage and prioritize it. I believe the second you feel you have triumphed or overcome something – an abuse, an injury to the body or the mind, an addiction, a character flaw, a habit, a person – you have merely decided to stop being vigilant and embraced denial as your modus operandi. And that is what this book is about, and for: to remind you not to buy in to the Hollywood ending.

Ironically maybe, much of Baggage chronicles my life in Hollywood and how, since I recovered from a nervous breakdown at 28, work has repeatedly whisked me away from personal calamities to sets and stages around the world. It is also about marriage(s): starting with the break-up of my first (to a woman) and ending with the ascension to my second (to a man) with many kissed toads in between! But in everything, each failed relationship or encounter with a legend (Liza! X Men! Gore Vidal! Kubrick! Spice Girls!), in every bad decision or moment of sensual joy I have endeavored to show what I have learned and how I’ve become who I am today: a happy, flawed, vulnerable, fearless middle-aged man, with a lot of baggage. from Goodreads.


MY THOUGHTS

I have loved watching Alan Cumming since I first saw him in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. He just makes me so happy. So, when Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs came through Cleveland, I grabbed tickets with no real understanding of what was in store for me. Y’all, Alan Cumming is incredible. Please remember, I didn’t really know anything about him outside of his films. Could he sing? Would he be entertaining? What the heck is a “sappy song?” I actually didn’t care. And, thank goodness because this concert was amazing. I can still sit with the memory of how I felt at that show from the cheapest of seats with clarity. He made me laugh and cry and, for once, when the show was over I just sat in my seat because I didn’t want it to end. (Typically I run when the last chords are still echoing to avoid the crush of people).

I didn’t read Alan’s first book about his father. He spoke about his difficult childhood during the concert and I knew that I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth for this experience at the time. But I wanted to read Baggage. Strike that, I wanted to listen to Baggage. I wanted (fairly desperately) to hear Alan’s beautiful voice talk about his grand journey through life the same way he did when I saw him in concert.

This book does not dissapoint.

But, wait! Let’s talk about that beautiful voice for a moment. Alan talks about growing up Scottish and being made to feel that he should hide his accent and use something more English. Huh?? Is this a real thing? All I want to do is go to Scotland and sit in public and listen to people talk. How could he be self-conscious about that? But, it got me thinking about all the accents here in America that are regionally considered “less” and how we train that accent right about of people (think: Jersey, southern dialects). Then, I was struck as well with the notion that Americans want everyone to sound American to the point that there are Buzzfeed articles a plenty with “62 Famous Actors Who Tricked You Into Thinking They’re American, But They Aren’t.” Maybe we all think our “non accented” voice is the best or perhaps we all just live to make people feel self-conscious about where they are from. I dunno. I love an accent.

Throughout the book Alan is forced to do what all celebrity memoirs must and brag a little. I am no stranger to rolling my eyes when celebrities go on long lists of their accomplishments but, honestly, what do we expect from a memoir of a famous working person? Alan brings up things that the world celebrated him for and gives us an inside look into how the outside experience didn’t always mirror the inside one. He loved filming flops and was miserable while shooting box office successes. He talks about the things he does well with confidence. I wish I knew my worth like Alan seems to.

Most hilariously, one anecdote in particular brought to mind a moment from the concert in Cleveland that was uproariously funny. In the book and in concert, Alan spoke of falling in love with a man he calls Adonis. They were only briefly dating when they got tattoos of each other’s name right next to their penises. When I saw him in concert he told this story and detailed his eventual tattoo removal. He remarked that Adonis had changed his “Alan” tattoo to “balance” and quipped that if he could bring balance to this man’s life then it was all worth it. But, then, Adonis was actually in the audience! Alan brought him up on stage, Adonis delicately exposed on the remainder of his own tattoo (the man next to me had binoculars but wouldn’t share) and then Adonis sat down again. It was crazy, funny, unexpectedly, heartfelt and fun.

From the first chapter outlining his mental breakdown at the fear of having a child of his own through all the success and growth of the intervening years, Alan’s book took me on an emotional journey. I loved it all and I only wish I could offer him a heartfelt thanks for all the times he has brought me joy through his work.


Tell me, please! What is your favorite regional accent?


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