Monday, July 1, 2013

Non-Fiction Review: Back Story

David Mitchell, who you may know for his inappropriate anger on every TV panel show except Never Mind the Buzzcocks, his look of permanent discomfort on C4 sex comedy Peep Show, his online commenter-baiting in The Observer or just for wearing a stick-on moustache in That Mitchell and Webb Look, has written a book about his life.

 

Back Story

Mitchell, David. (2012). [Genre: Memoir]

I really enjoy a good memoir, the details of the right person's life are often fascinating and compelling. But I don't have a good relationship with celebrity memoirs, I think because often they are simply trying to further their career and don't want to admit that as far as celebrity goes their life is really fairly ordinary. So I was a bit cautious about diving into Back Story. On the other hand, David Mitchell (the British comedian, not the writer, as he firmly points out) is one of my favourite-people-that-I-don't-actually-know, so I felt like I had to give it a try. That and my husband got it for Christmas, so there was a copy lying around the house just waiting for me to pick it up.

I shouldn't have worried. David Mitchell is from the get-go completely honest about his life being pretty ordinary. He's from a fairly ordinary background, had a safe childhood with loving parents, went to good, but not the best schools, worked his butt off to get into Cambridge, realised he really preferred acting to history, decided to try to become a professional comedic actor and worked hard to get there. Which, as we know, he eventually did. Because otherwise no one would have paid him to write the book. His honesty about the fact that he wanted to have the career he does and worked to get there, rather than claiming a sudden 'discovery' and 'never wanting fame,' makes Back Story seem authentic. Acceptance of this fact also leads to lots of other amusing tidbits about the industry - for example, his and Lee Mack's exaggeration of their class differences on the panel show Would I Lie to You because it suits them to be those characters, when in reality they come from similar class backgrounds.

I enjoyed the story telling method; David going for a walk near his home in London, with the sights reminding him of stories from his life. His reason for walking is his chronic back pain, which turns the title of the book into a sly pun and (or so the author claims) makes it a not only a memoir but also a travel/self-help/weight-loss guide. At times the segue from London to childhood-story felt a little forced, but for the most part it worked perfectly.

What really converted me to the book though was two things. The first was that you could tell David Mitchell was writing it. There is no ghost writer at play here, because I don't think anyone could sound THAT MUCH like the man himself. At times, you could hear Mitchell's voice reading the book to you. The tone was of him, through and through, which as a fan of Mitchell's work I loved. The second factor was the books conclusion, where David talks about his then fiancée (now wife) Victoria Coren. He talks about her in terms of real love and affection, in a way that shows that she has made a difference to his life. It's both sweet and heartwarming, without coming across as sappy or attention-grabbing.

If you're a fan of David Mitchell, Back Story is worth picking up. If you have no idea who he is, look him up. NOW!

4/5 Stars

 

 

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