A Real Story

November 30, 2012

Been reading quite a bit of biography/memoir lately, and, as with biographical films (Man in the Moon, Capote, Iron Lady, My Week with Marilyn), it often seems to be quite hard to capture the essence of a person’s life and make an engaging story. Most have flashes of brilliance (in the movies, the performances are all excellent), but to find one that’s a gem all the way through is unusual.

I didn’t know a lot about Gordon Pinsent. Hap on Red Green, voiceover work, CBC cameos, and the stunning Away from Her (will be making the husband watch it with me, soon, I think). But what I knew, I liked, and the great Newfie grin on the cover sealed the deal, so I took the book home.

One thing I hadn’t known was how much Pinsent is a writer, and it comes across loud and clear, here. It’s not stream-of-consciousness, but it’s very much a personal voice, and at first it takes some getting used to. But once you’re into it, it’s musical and engaging. There are a lot of small moments, but unlike some memoirs, there’s a feeling of the overarching narrative that puts everything in the right place.

A few passages are asides–I shouldn’t say that, they’re really some of the meat of the story–to his wife, actress Charmion King, who died in 2007 (Josephine Barry in the Sullivan Anne of Green Gables, as well as years and years treading the boards). It’s a real love story, and Pinsent’s insight gets richer and richer as he gets closer to the present day.

Great Canadian actors don’t retire, as Pinsent points out (with Chris Plummer and Donald Sutherland as additional evidence). I’m so glad he keeps saying, “Yes, of course.”

Pete Townshend to himself

November 23, 2012

Just finished Pete Townshend’s memoir,Who I Am. While sometimes episodic, and demonstrative of how people sometimes have difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff in their own lives, it’s an absolutely fascinating look into his creative, political, and personal journeys. This passage at the end, a letter from Townshend to himself as an 8-year-old, is an affirmation that I think would speak to many.

“Remember that the bad feelings you sometimes have today are helping to make you strong and talented and empathetic to the pain that other people feel. But you have a good heart and you will be okay at the end. Life can be hard, and what you will find hard is accepting how wonderful the life you are going to have actually is. This is because for some reason you don’t feel you deserve all this.

“You have a brilliant mind. Unfortunately you are not going to exercise it quite as much as you should. Your self-esteem is too low and you will lapse into laziness that will slow you up.

“…Respect yourself. Try to remember that not everything in life can be perfect. You will make mistakes. That’s inevitable. But you are not ugly. You will only be ugly when you behave in an ugly way.

“Enjoy life. And be careful what you pray for–remember, you will get it all.”