Monday, March 24, 2014

AMERICAN ON PURPOSE: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot

$14.99 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson delivers a moving and achingly funny memoir of living the American dream as he journeys from the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland, to the comedic promised land of Hollywood. Along the way he stumbles through several attempts to make his mark—as a punk rock musician, a construction worker, a bouncer, and, tragically, a modern dancer.

To numb the pain of failure, Ferguson found comfort in drugs and alcohol, addictions that eventually led to an aborted suicide attempt. (He forgot to do it when someone offered him a glass of sherry.) But his story has a happy ending: in 1993, the washed-up Ferguson washed up in the United States. Finally sober, Ferguson landed a breakthrough part on the hit sitcom The Drew Carey Show, a success that eventually led to his role as the host of CBS's The Late Late Show. By far Ferguson's greatest triumph was his decision to become a U.S. citizen, a milestone he achieved in early 2008, just before his command performance for the president at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson talks a red, white, and blue streak about everything our Founding Fathers feared.

My Review: Scottish prole grows up in emotionally chilly, physically cold as hell Glasgow, turns to drugs and alcohol to fill gaping emotional void, screws over a variety of people as all alkies do, and one day wakes up to learn he doesn't like himself, his life, or his future. Rehab, restitution, success, and true love follow.

I herewith confess: If Craig Ferguson was even a teensy hint queer, I'd be on a plane to Cali and camped on his doorstep with flowers, candy, and a leg iron. He amuses and impresses me even more after reading his pretty darned candid memoir.

I'm a complete pushover for a man in a kilt anyway, but when he can act and tell jokes the way this man can...! Ferguson, when hosting The Late Late Show, made me laugh so hard I cried when he said of his son's mother: "No, really, she's a lovely woman. For legal purposes." I heard nothing of his show for the next five minutes because I was shouting with laughter, and Mr. Man was a little put out that I kept referring to that line (okay, I shamelessly stole it, and I still use it, and unless I get a cease-and-desist letter I'm gonna keep right on) to the point of having a jealous fit. (Thanks, Craig!)

I am also a sucker for men who come to the USA with dreams of success and end up in love with our amazing, incredible, flawed, imperfect, conservatism-ridden paradise. Ferguson fell in love with the USA in its warty glory, and he rightly credits this astonishingly open society with a goodly measure of his own success. His talent plays an acknowledged role, but he makes sure to tell his readers that his life wouldn't be possible anywhere else. It's very heartening to me, and it's an instructive reminder that, problems and blemishes be damned, the rest of the world rightly and justly thinks we're on to something here.

Lastly, but far from least, I'm a complete sucker for a good story told by a good storyteller, and this book most certainly is that. Ferguson can't resist telling tales, no doubt polishing them up a wee bit, but not always in his own favor. He can't resist making light of things that sink many an alkie person's life, and sank his own, and thus takes the ponderousness out of the idea of recovery. I've read a fair bit of recovery literature but I'm always fatally put off by the earnest, well-meaning "Amazing Grace"-ness of it all. A person's personal spiritual awakening is, and should remain, just that: Personal. In other words, BELT UP ABOUT JESUS. Ferguson not only does, he makes it clear that he has a BIG problem with religion. *swoon* My lands, just when I thought he couldn't get more magnetically, hypnotically gorgeously attractive!

So should others read this? Yes. It's fun, funny, and touching; it's honest and it's gritty; and in the end, it's a pleasure to get to know Craig Ferguson as well as if he were the bloke on the barstool next over.

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