For the past few years the wife and I have enjoyed watching clips of Craig Ferguson’s 10-year tenure as host of the Late Late Show, remarking on his deconstruction of the daily talk-show format, his irreverent sincerity, and the moments of personal pain that peek through the levity – moments I should mention he doesn’t shy away from, but acknowledges and accepts as they come.
Recently I purchased American on Purpose, one of his non-fiction novels. It’s his personal retelling of the journey that took him from the streets of Glasgow to the bottom of a bottle and crawling back up again, landing on the shores of America and deciding to become a citizen. I knew bits and pieces of his tale from watching his stand-up and compilations from the LLS, but I hadn’t before heard the whole thing from his perspective.
My own relationship with America and the ideals thereof is complicated, and perhaps some time I’ll write about it more at length, but I find the story of, desire to, and working toward gaining American citizenship fascinating – here are people working through a hostile system to obtain that which I’ve had from birth, for arguably little benefit other than the ability to state that, wherever they are from, they are an American Citizen.
In the brief preface to his novel, Craig reflects on the process of writing the book, and I relate so, so much to his storytelling experience. I may not have fought the battles he has, but I believe the unvarnished reflection of one’s past, both the bright and dark, is too rare a trait, and one that I believe has long drawn me to Craig’s performances.
A brief excerpt that says it far better than I could:
In order to write this book I reached into the darkness for my past and found to my surprise that most of it was still there, just as I had left it. Some of it, though, had grown and morphed into what now appears to be hideous and reprehensible selfishness. Some of it had crumbled into the ruins of former shame.
This is not journalism. This is just my story. There are bound to be some lies here, but I’ve been telling them so long they’ve become truth. My truth, as close as I can get to what really happened. I left some tales out because to tell them would be excessively cruel to people who probably don’t deserve it, and altered a few names for the same reason, but I believe I spared myself no blushes.
As soon as I read the above paragraphs, not even two pages into to book, I knew I had made the right choice picking it up. I’ve lived half the length and less than one-quarter the experience that Craig has, yet I could see his words flowing just as easily from my pen.
Most of my non-fiction writing is self-critical or -deprecating, because – particularly in recent memory – I have taken a very stern and disapproving look at my own feelings and behaviors, judging myself lacking in the moral and social virtues I would want to see in others. Whether I’m being consistently overharsh or alternatively too lenient, the stories of myself are mine of me – they are what I remember, what I dwell on, and ultimately what shape my path forward, no matter how subjective the lenses I view them through.
I greatly appreciate everyone who has encouraged, supported, and believed in me as I work to create a new, hopefully more satisfied, version of myself – one who writes and creates, encouraging others to chafe their own artistic and joyous endeavors.
Though I bought Craig’s book on a whim, I have little doubt that it will remain a valuable member of my collection for a very long time. It takes a lot of strength to confront one’s inner demons, particularly when they become externally-defining characteristics, and here’s hoping that one day I’ll have the strength and ability to do the same.