Review: Believe Me, by Eddie Izzard

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I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on this one because… ahmmm, well I’m not entirely certain what it is I feel about it.  So let me give you a bit of background on this one.

Glinda has seen the Believe documentary and said that she had no idea how the director (Izzard’s former girlfriend) managed to make him seem dull.  This comment kept coming back to me as I listened to the audiobook because I found a great deal of it to be dull.

It’s not that I don’t love Eddie, I do.  I think he’s a freaking genius.  It’s not that he hasn’t done a lot of interesting things.  He absolutely has.  He’s a man who, by his own admission, pushes himself to do the things that scare him because he knows that way lies both success and strength.  But as I listened, I found myself thinking, “Wow, you’re just not all that interesting when you’re not performing.”

I really can’t put my finger on why I think that.  There’s nothing specifically that I can point to beyond this being not entirely what I had thought it would be.  I recently listened to John Cleese’s autobiography and loved it, so it’s not me not being interested in their lives that’s the problem.  But perhaps the problem might have something to do with the fact that, apart from one huge exception, Izzard never truly lets us inside.  I never had the sense that he was telling us how he felt about his life except for one thing: He has never gotten over the death of his mother when he was six.

I do get that.  I feel it.  I was in my fifties when my parents died and I can’t shake the pervasive grief and sense of loss I still feel years later.  But that loss seems to be the single driving force behind everything he does.  He even says as much. Kudos to him for understanding that about himself, but that feels like the most he’s willing to give us.

No, he doesn’t owe us self-evisceration, I absolutely don’t expect that.   My expectation was to find him as engaging and entertaining about himself as he is on stage, and I learned that he is very, very different from his stage persona.  Being transgender is a big issue for him, and yet I still don’t think I have an understanding of how he feels about it.  I know what he thinks, I just don’t know what he feels.

There’s a thread that runs through the entire book that’s very telling, or at least it is to me.  God doesn’t exist.  It comes up so often that I had the sense that he was saying what I did when I saw my parents’ minds falling apart: I wish there was a god so I could spit in his face.  I’m not as actively hostile these days, but I am not a believer, and doubt I ever will be.  He’s still angry with a god he doesn’t believe in, and that’s a rough place to be.  But to listen to that, over and over, is difficult.

So, in spite of all this, I would still give the book four stars because he really is a freaking genius, and a man who has done incredibly inspirational things throughout his life.

Side note: This was the 80th book I finished this year, which was my goal for June.  I hope to finish 160 by the end of the year, though I’m only going to upgrade my challenge to 150.  I don’t want to get to the holidays and feel a lot of pressure.  Still, I’m pretty proud of myself.

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