Ever since he skeeved me out back in Circle of Friends, I have been a fan of Alan Cumming. Sandy in Romy and Michelle, Mr. Elton in Emma, Nightcrawler in X-Men, Eli in my current fave tv show, The Good Wife. Love it, love it, love it. The one thing I was super extra heavy disappointed about during my last trip to New York was the fact that I didn’t have tickets to see him reprise his role as the Emcee in Cabaret. There are some artistic experiences that, when I know about them and don’t get to see them, hurt me BAD in my innards, and that was one of them. Plus, although obviously we have no idea what celebrities are really like (although obvs we know that: stars! they’re just like us!), he just seems cool to me. Like someone I would want to have dinner with.
I would have thought his memoir, Not My Father’s Son, would have been a series of anecdotes about his cosmopolitan life, where he’s known for hosting sophisticated parties (which, I hear, he calls, um, *cough cough* Club Cumming), but instead, this book is about his family. He tells two narratives: one revolving around his relationship with his violently abusive father, and the other revolving around filming of the genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are” where he traces the history of his maternal grandfather, who died under mysterious circumstances. His descriptions of what he suffered from his father as a child are horrifying, and the ability he has to eventually take control of his own life and remain a loving, creative, emotionally open person are inspiring.
The tone of the book is conversational, like a friend telling you their business in order to feel your support, but you end up feeling uplifted by their story instead. A fascinating layer of the whole thing is the reader’s ability to fire up the internet and watch the episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” after reading the book in order to see some of the narrative on film, which I totally did. I’m not gonna lie to you, I got choked up. It’s an inspirational story that – even if you don’t have anything in common with Alan like an abusive childhood- speaks compellingly about any sort of shit one may be dealt in life, and encourages you to face it and clean that shit up even when it’s not your fault. Perhaps especially when it’s not your fault. That’s what it made me think of, anyway. A lovely book.