Book: Anything Goes: The Autobiography by John Barrowman with Carole E. Barrowman
Genre(s): Celebrity memoir
Publisher: Michael O’Mara
Publication date: 2008
Hardback: 256 pages
My Thoughts: John Barrowman is most well known, at least in the US, as the actor who portrays Captain Jack Harkness in the BBC shows Dr. Who and Torchwood. Anything Goes, Barrowman’s autobiography, is only the second celebrity autobiography I have read (Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn was the first). I have to admit I was a little worried about whether I really wanted to read this book when John Barrowman’s memoir began with him talking about himself as “he,” with interspersed footnote asides. Fortunately, the third person device disappeared after the first scene before I had time to get tired of it and the footnotes were ultimately charming. I read the book to be charmed, after all, so why not let it do the job?
While planning my project for National Novel Writing Month (November), I tried out a piece of writing advice: cast your novel like a play. John Barrowman is playing the role of my hero. For the first time in my writing life, I am in love with my own romantic lead, which explains a lot about why this novel has so much more energy than my previous attempts.
My hero, of course, shares a passing physical resemblance with Captain Jack Harkness since they are played by the same actor, but they are quite different characters. The Torchwood world is much darker than the world of my novel so Captain Jack is more violent and secretive than my hero needs to be. I guessed that learning about the actor John Barrowman, who also lives in a less dark world than Torchwood, might help me flesh out my character. And it has. Barrowman is so completely the opposite of secretive (downright outrageous, really) that I’m impressed with how much mystery he is able to give to his portrayal of Captain Jack. I’m going to borrow a bit of that outrageousness for my hero because it will really annoy my stuffy heroine.
I hadn’t gone all fangirlish over a celebrity for a good decade before I first heard the word “fangirl.” And I really never expected to again. I’m 48, for pete’s sake. But now that I know how much fun it is, I intend to cultivate that part of myself. My adolescent version of fangirlishness was laced with desperation, a need for a reality to step out of the fantasy, someone or something that would fill what felt like a vast emptiness inside myself. Eventually, I determined that the hole was not going to be filled by Shaun Cassidy, Mark Hammill, or Richard Gere and I let go of my inner fangirl. Fortunately, the emptiness filled gradually as I got older with a combination of confidence and gratitude. I am thankful for my rich and varied life, including my personal hero who wages war against low humidity in my home, takes out the trash in dangerously icy conditions, and makes me feel cherished and desired. From this vantage point, fangirlishness gets to be pure fun, sweet and tender and rejuvenating.
In my quest to find my inner fangirl, this won’t be the last celebrity biography or memoir that I read. Have you read any that you can recommend to me?
To whom will this book appeal?:
Torchwood fans. But don’t expect too much. The guy has already written a second autobiography, I Am What I Am. I imagine that’s because fans got to the end of this book screaming, “More Torchwood!” And, yes, I have already have I Am What I Am on my To Be Read list. I think I’ll save it for one of those icky gray days in February when I need something to pick up my spirits.
Theater fans. Especially musical theater fans. There are dozens of funny stories of backstage and even hidden onstage antics.
Celebrity autobiography fans. Well, okay, I’m not qualified to make this recommendation since I admitted to this being only my second. But he co-wrote it with his sister Carole E. Barrowman who is an English professor and columnist. I don’t imagine that the writing in these things gets too much better.