In his now bestseller celebrity self-justification fun version of the footballer/popstar’s premature autobiography, former drug-fiend and co-winner of the year before last’s Big Fat Quiz, Russell Brand has done good (even though he came last in the quiz this NYE). “My Booky Wook” is erudite in a way that may surprise some, but since it is probably also predictable that he steps out with his glam warts and all – herpes? – persona patented on the model of a low-rent Johhny Depp crossed with Truman Capote and Julian Clary, I think no-one should be all that surprised at this effort to titillate and sallaciate with his tales. No doubt some literary-academic-intellectual types – I fear the implied readers of this forum – would neither read Brand nor expect a review of such a text here, and so will pass by with a big mother superior boring yawn but although Brand manages the celebrity-auto-bio format without the soccer or songs, it is clearly better written than most (see the Beckham family albums for the worst of each type). Having read Brand, albeit in between too much seasonal sneezing and spluttering, I think it is worthy of mature consideration even when it gives us heroic tales of not very much really – some school courses he did not complete, some projects that remain lost in obscure corners (his best the anti-Young-BNP piece that is on Youtube here: Naziboy), and some recovery-projects that seem unlikely to be permanent.
But revaluation of revaluations, my favourite bit was where he confesses that his drug problems are born in (educational) New Cross. Sort of. I quote:
“Dean had acquired some acid, sheets of it; I’d heard tell of its qualities, of how it made you hallucinate and readdress your life and I thought, ‘My God! This sounds extraordinary’. We went over to the YMCA after school, took some, and went back to his house in New Cross on the Tube.
With or without acid, New Cross can be mind-bending, so it’s the ideal venue to have something so fundamental as your perception of reality altered, because it just exposes everything – the world as you see it, even your own psyche – as a construction.
All the things you believe to be true are thrown into doubt. And what’s so ridiculous is the way that you take this extra-ordinarily powerful, potent drug: not in a hospital with someone making you sit down and have a glass of water, but on the way home from school with your daft mate, walking through New Cross all fragile and delicate”
There then follows an allusion to Huxley, but although Russell knows its a cliche to talk about how your hands can be fascinating while tripping, his commentary soon devolves into a meditation on body spray that has a Go Ask Alice quality about it anyway.
Which is what is both appealling and annoying about our the lovable scamp that our Russell is – yes, a Big Brother Big Mouth with Dadaist touches, snippets of Nietzsche and knowing references to alternative culture is so much better than the dumb drivel usually offered up for our entertainment, but at the very same time a knowing reference left obscure or never developed is just another holier than though gambit (like this sentence, and like that Ricky Gervais trash of BB in Extras).
So in the end I am mildly disappointed because exactly this sort of double take not quite unconvincing victimoglorification is oftentimes the trouble with drug-fiend memoirs. Nothing much new there, nothing much more than a morality tale about getting caught up in drugs, then struggling to get off them, and final triumph. The Brand book has a good deal of this format, but at least there is some sense that the drugs were fun at some point. Too often these sort of cod-confessionals erase the very reasons the poor sods took recreational drugs in the first place – recreation. A case in point would be Motley Crue guitarist Nikki Sixx’s book “Heroin Diaries” – a sad, paranoid and woefully written tedium that reminded me of a badly rendered version of that annoying movie “A Scanner Darkly”, which also left out the fun bits. These kind of books do not do the job properly, and so do us all a disservice. Brand, in comparison, gets closer,
Next in a series – SLASH (from Guns n Roses). I also got his book for Christmas. And plan to read it alongside Andrew Loog Oldham’s story of getting the Rolling Stones famous for being naughty boys and wasting himself on 1970s coke. Should be a welcome return to fun.