Thursday, November 18, 2010

Memoir # 7 - American on Purpose

Author: Craig Ferguson
Format: audio - 7 1/2 hours, 288 pages equivalent
Subject: alcoholism, addiction, emigration, patriotism
Genre: memoir
Source: public library audio download
Challenge: Month of Memoirs

Alright, I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a man in a kilt. The cover of this one grabbed my interest; several of my LT friends recommended it highly, and the scottish accent was a big draw.

Craig Fersugon, currently the host of the LateLate Show on CBS, was born in Scotland.  Listening to him read his delightful memoir, one has no doubt about his origins.  He speaks easily, eloquently, poignantly of his childhood and adolescence - his less than stellar record in the educational system, and his early start at drinking alcohol. Needing some type of employment, he joined on with a punk band as a drummer.  The drummer skill set stays with him to this day.

In the story, he takes us through years of drinking, drugging, bouncing from job to job, woman to woman, sleeping on friend's floors to buying a house in the country with a very wealthy woman.  We accompany him through 3 unsuccessful marriages and several other romantic relationships.

He drops many names, not in a name-dropping fashion, but more to establish opportunities received and often blown.  He drifts back and forth from Scotland to London to the US and back again.  Finally, he lands in a very expensive re-hab unit outside of London.  Unlike many other "I found religion when I gave up the bottle" memoirs, he tells this part of the story very matter-of-factly, and without the excruciating detail many such stories subject the reader to. While he is brutally honest about his failures, he is deeply apologetic about the havoc wreaked and the lives injured over the years.  He is justly proud of his now 17+ years of sobriety--it took him over 7 years to pay off debts he owed to a long line of friends.

His career since coming to the US in 1993 has steadily improved.  He is now a writer, an actor, a producer and  director.  He is very proud of becoming an American citizen and speaks powerfully of why he is.  He recognizes that the U.S. is not a perfect place to live, but still wouldn't be anyplace else.  He is even more proud of his life- having his own show on CBS, living a sober life, and being ---finally-- a loving husband and father.  He still remembers with great affection the giant color poster he received from NASA when he was a child and wrote to say he wanted to be an astronaut.  It was this first touch with American in fact, that put the idea into his head that he wanted to go to America.

In short, this is a story worth reading.  The language can be a tad raw, but it is true to who the author is.  If you really want the full flavor, I'd recommend the audio format.  Listening to him read the story truly brings it alive. It is laugh out loud funny, inspiring, and memorable. He explains in the ending paragraphs exactly what being an American means to him.
America truly is the best idea for a country that anyone has ever come up with so far, not only because we value democracy and the rights of the individual, but because we are always our own most effective voice of dissent...we must never mistake disagreement between Americans on political or moral issues to be an indication of their level of patriotism.  If you don't like what I say or don't agree with where I stand, then good....I'm glad we're in America and don't have to oppress each other over it.  We're not just a nation, we're not an ethnicity, we are a  dream  of justice that people have had for thousands of years.

Americans taught me failure was only something you went through on your way to success.  For me becoming an American was not a geographical or even  political decision.  It was a philosophical and emotional one based on a belief in the reason and fairness of opportunity. 


  1. I'm just wondering if you found his accent hard to understand? But now that I think of it, I've heard him talk and it isn't bad at all.

  2. It sounds like you found the book a worthwhile read. I will add it to my list of biographies/memoirs to read next year. Thanks!

  3. Got this for my hubby and he really enjoyed reading it! Craig Ferguson is too funny!


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