I have adored Carol Burnett since I was...oh, three-years-old, perhaps? I think I often confused her with my grandmother, though I think it was because they were both so prevalent in my life, not because they're anything alike. At any rate, I am looking very forward to listening to this book!
--so, here's a funny (to-me) aside: I started listening to this book this morning (Nov. 23, 2010) and it's read by the author (as it should be) and, seriously, the moment I heard her voice, my eyes got all misty. Who knows why. I'm becoming sentimental in my near-middle-age. At any rate, I thought to myself, "Well, if I ever for-some-unknown-reason meet this woman, I will just start crying. I will bawl and look stupid...so I rather hope to never meet her." And her first story? It's about her adoration of Jimmy Stewart and how she felt she'd always known him, from the time she was a little girl. And when she met him for the first time, she started crying. They became good friends later in life. But it made me feel good to know that should I ever for-some-unknown-reason meet Carol Burnett and break down crying...at least she'd understand.--
I've just finished listening to Ms. Burnett's collection of recollections. Some were like fairy tale stories. Some made me giggle here at my desk. I admire the woman more today than I did before. What an amazing life. However, the two things that surprised me were as follows:
Thing One: I would never have guessed, though in retrospect, it makes sense, that Ms. Burnett has some difficulty closing her stories. It's not a bad thing, really, it's just disconcerting. It's like walking down stairs and expecting more stairs but they're not there and you hit the bottom too hard. I would say 2 out of every 3 stories has an abrupt ending or, at least, ends feeling like things weren't quite finished.
As I said, thinking back, it does make sense. Hers is the gift of physical comedy - her vocal inflections and facial expressions and body movements - and timing. Her talent for storytelling can't compete with her other gifts; she's rather average in that department. (Which is good because no one should be great at everything!)
Thing Two: I don't know if such is the truly the case, but she makes it sound as if she was not full of self-confidence for much of her life. I may have picked up on something that simply isn't there, but that is the impression I felt and it was shocking to me. Even today - maybe moreso today, come to think of it - women do not put themselves out there as anything other than pretty or clever (or pretty AND clever, which is not as common). There are not a lot of women in the realm of physical comedy. I can't think of any of the current comediennes who would gladly make fun of themselves to the point of looking physically ridiculous for extended periods of time. But Ms. Burnett did just that, if memory serves, for years. To my mind, it takes serious guts to be able to put your vanity aside and do whatever it takes to get a laugh...to be zany, to act and look silly, to wear horrid clothing...whatever it takes. Thus, it seemed so incongruent that she seems to have lacked complete self-confidence when she is such a fantastically gutsy woman!
Regardless, I love her stories. The only one that gave me a very hard time was her memory of her eldest daughter, Carrie, and their struggle to get their play finished before Carrie's death. Part of the problem, of course, was Ms. Burnett's voice all choked-up as she read her recollections. The other part of the problem was that her daughter died at the age I am, now. I have so many things I still want to do, so many things I'm working on, so many hopes and dreams still left unaccomplished and I know she did, too. It just hurt to listen to the brief story of a woman my age, blazing forward, who was denied the rest of her life to do all the things she wanted to do.
This is not a memoir or an autobiography by definition. It's a collection of memories shaped into stories. I found them entertaining, suprising, fun and, often, quite funny. I recommend this to anyone who has fond memories of Carol Burnett's show or loved her as Miss Hannigan in "Annie" or who just like delightful women, in general. Actually, I'd recommend it to a lot of other people, too, especially as an audiobook.