Talking As Fast As I Can, Lauren Graham, 2017

talking

I’d given “slapping a bass” a whole new meaning. Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham’s memoir fit into a few categories in the 2018 Reading Challenge. It was a 1) celebrity memoir that was a 2) 2017 Good Choice Award Winner that 3) made me laugh out loud. But more importantly, it fulfills the Book With A Six Word Title challenge. Six word titles are not as easy to find as you think. And now I can breathe a sigh of relief having finally found one that I was excited to read.

I’m a big Gilmore Girls fan. As the only child of a young single parent, the idea that a show would focus on that family dynamic was welcome and affirming. Disney princesses aside, you didn’t really see single parent households in family entertainment in 2000. Especially one so unapologetic. Graham’s upbeat and energetic portrayal of Lorelai captured the spontaneity that comes with growing up with your parent.

Graham recounts her whimsical childhood (first Honolulu, then Japan, then a houseboat) and her early days as a struggling theatre actress in New York to successful tv and film star in Los Angeles and all the wacky adventures that got her there.  She also talks about the perks and weirdness that accompany fame, like being famous enough to guest host on Project Runway yet still being awestruck enough to draw a blank.

Of course, for most of us, the real fun starts when she recollects her Gilmore Girls years from breathing life into Lorelai Gilmore and reviving her almost ten years later. She recalls first impressions of costars, hopes and expectations for the show as well as the behind the scenes production drama that comes with getting a show on the air. Graham focuses on the positive, staying away from gossip or pettiness leaving the quaint colorful world of Stars Hollow intact.

Would be actors will find her climb familiar and inspiring, though things have changed a great deal from the early nineties when she began her ascent. I’m sure there are aspects of the acting career that don’t change much. Gilmore Girl fans will love the inside stories of the making of the original as well as the reunion ten years later. Graham has a light, genuine tone, humility and self-depreciating humor that make her writing enjoyable and accessible.

Thoughts that linger:

I always considered Graham to be a private person since she managed to avoid the tabloids and was delighted that she shared pictures of herself from childhood to the present.

She includes a section in each of the season summaries called “Times were different” where she reminds viewers of once common, now archaic, aspects of life like *69ing and using disposable cameras.

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Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes, 2015

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“Always dancing. Always in the sun. Yes.” Shonda Rhimes  Image © Alyssa Yerga-Woolwine

 

Spoiler Alert

Moving forward with the 2018 Reading Challenge , I’ve chosen Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes for the Celebrity Memoir challenge.

Rhimes, Queen of Shondaland and Thursday Nights writes about a life-changing choice she made spurred on by her older sister’s off-handed criticism: “You never say yes to anything.” Outraged and indignant, Rhimes attempts to defend her choices. Months later she must admit to herself that her comfort zone is a place where she exists but doesn’t live. Despite her successes in work (three intelligent much-loved television shows) and family (three intelligent much-loved daughters) she’s coasting along, actively avoiding challenging situations. To change this, for one year she forces herself to say yes to any opportunity she would normally say no to.

My initial response was “Yeah, right.” Dartmouth grad, USC post-grad, production company running Shonda Rhimes has problems?

There are “yeah, right”able moments that some will find hard to relate to (she’s got a glam team at the ready for special events) but they are outnumbered by the very human moments she shares with readers.

Like many people with fervid imaginations, it was easier for her to be by herself, in herself than deal with the messy frustrating and maddening world of real human beings. During her year of yes, she accepted invitations she would have turned down. Invitations that included giving speeches, attending parties and stepping in front of the camera more often.

She struggles with motherhood vs. career, two lofty goals that are often at odds with each other.  Her year of yes enforced what most women already know deep down. You can have it all, just not simultaneously.

She eventually overcomes the guilt she feels for not wanting to ever marry and revels in the liberating insight. “I really think that I am this happy because I realized that I really don’t want the fairy tale.”

She also talks about weight and what it means to say yes to health. She’s honest about the lure of food as therapy: it isn’t the best way to deal with negative emotions but it’s effective. She talks candidly about the feminist conflict of balancing the quest for health with caring about appearance.  “The feminist in me didn’t want to have the discussion with myself….It felt as though I was judging myself on how I looked. It felt…traitorous to care.”

Fans (or even someone slightly familiar with) of Rhimes’ melodramas might be surprised by the conversational and often hilarious tone. There’s no intensity or urgency, no deep subtext filled dialogue. It’s just Shonda talking about her Year of Yes in a fun, accessible way.

These are the things that still linger in my mind:

I find it endearing that instead of being the Cristina Yang of her own life, she was more like April Kepner, frazzled and unsure.

During her year of yes, Rhimes agreed to always say yes when her kids asked her to play. To her surprise, she found that they only wanted about fifteen minutes of her time before they were off to do other things.

Her nanny’s name is Jenny McCarthy (not the entertainer). She refers to her throughout the book as Jenny McCarthy. Not Jenny or Jen. Jenny McCarthy.