There’s a few memoirs in my revised stack, and for good reason. I love memoirs. Can’t get enough of ’em. I had a three-day lull in my reading, so I willed myself (with great fucking effort) to get back in the saddle. I turned off my computer (which meant turning off Netflix in the middle of my Dexter binge-watch, and that was by far the most daunting part of the whole thing), made myself a snack, and then curled up in my bed with Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. I did not move from that spot for the five hours it took to read.
(The speed-reading in which one might see me engaged during the academic year is reserved exclusively for my coursework. I’m surprisingly capable of enjoying a leisurely pace when I’m reading literally anything else.)
A majority of my staying in one place was, of course, an incredible amount of willpower to not. put. down. another. damn. book, but also the fact that I didn’t want to put down Kendrick’s book. I’ve often found it quite easy to make distinctions between things I enjoy about a book and things I appreciate about a book — there is a difference, and it’s as simple as saying that just because I can appreciate what an author is doing (as a writer) does not mean I enjoy what the author is doing (as a reader). But with Scrappy Little Nobody, those demarcations weren’t as easy to set in my mind. The Venn Diagram of things I appreciated and things I enjoyed was almost just a circle.
Scrappy Little Nobody has an interesting structure for a performer’s memoir. What I’ve found is that a lot of performer memoirs are organized on a very A-to-B-to-C progression of their careers, with light sprinkling of personal insights to fill the gaps between professional developments. (The most glaring exception to this, in my reading experience, being the previously-posted-about Odd Birds by Ian Harding.) In Kendrick’s book, the first few chapters were almost exactly that, but as the writing progressed, I began picking up on some interesting play with a non-linear narrative flow. Though a lot of the “early life” things were structured around her auditions and her jobs, once Scrappy Little Nobody reached the point at which Kendrick went off into the world on her own (from Maine to L. A., without a car), the text was organized more as a collection of short essays and musings focused on a selection of topics. Thematic, rather than strictly chronological. The essays within each thematic section (ranging from relationships to publicity, to fashion, to friendship) were arranged chronologically when it benefitted the Main Point, which was often a perspectival shift. In the section on boys, we start with the childhood crushes, to the early romantic relationships, to exploring sex, to her current view on it all.
There were two other things I found particularly enticing about Kendrick’s book (besides her vocal clarity and comedic timing) were her use of footnotes, and the presence of a small section at the very end that was designed as book club questions. As the inevitable hour in which I must get serious (more serious?) about my thesis draws ever nearer, I’ve begun to accumulate (from more contemporary nonfiction) stylistic choices with which I want to experiment. I’ve tried to implement footnotes in a similar way to what Kendrick has done here — not in a research-based, citational way, which is obviously the traditional and most widely-accepted use of footnotes, but to use them in a way that adds additional information while maintaining a tonal consistency with the regular text. I’ve tried my hand at this before, to some measure of success (at least I think my professor liked it???), and Kendrick’s footnote usage gives me hope that it can be done, and done well.
What I appreciated and enjoyed about the “reading group questions” in the back of the book was that it kind of poked at the fact that a lot of these books in the contemporary nonfiction/celebrity memoir genre are often book club selections — and it was another opportunity for Kendrick’s humor to shine. Many (read: all) of the questions were hilarious, and ridiculous, and even a bit absurd. It was a solid fourth-wall break, and closing with a section that steers the book into this kind of meta territory is an intriguing choice. I’d need to sleep on it to say anything more insightful about it. Don’t worry. It’ll come.
I have no idea what from my list I’m going to read next. If it’s not Ronda Rousey’s My Fight / Your Fight, then it’ll probably be Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. I know. Wildly different options, those. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my taste in books has become what some might consider to be disturbingly eclectic.