Tuesday, December 6, 2011

[December 6th] "By Myself" by Lauren Bacall

As of late I’ve been enjoying Lauren Bacall’s cheery, bubbly autobiography “By Myself” and I don’t want the book to end, but I’m crawling slowly to the finish line. The end is near, but I decided to voice my thoughts as they come to me. It’s different than my critical approach to a work and I don’t believe that there is something to get out of a biography thinking critically about it, not the way you would do a novel.

Obviously, “By Myself” is geared towards a different generation, whose members have been at one point exposed to the names bombed heavily through the book’s pages. Through some of my American pop-culture exposure, I have recognized almost half the names Bacall lists at any given time, but since the Boggart-Bacall family had an active social life, it’s inevitable. I don’t know so much, because it just gives me other personalities from the past to explore.

What drew me in “By Myself” was the cover art, which demanded my attention the second I laid my eyes on it and as with “Wild Swans” the book was a gamble on my part and another good pick. I guess I’m born with the intuition to judge good books by their extraordinary titles [in this case, the author’s name and the book’s title are switched, which I, at first, understood as the book being titled “Lauren Bacall” and that the ‘by myself’ bit was a hint that it was an autobiography written by the actress herself – hopefully without the aid of a ghost writer] and cover art. While I do believe that there is something noble in seeking beauty wrapped in rags, I deny that my epidermis shifts with waves of pleasure when I hold brilliance pampered and styled for the privilege of being in my hands. What can I say? I’m an egoist when it comes to the reading experience.

“By Myself” entertains me, because the Hollywood glory days have some indescribable sway over my imagination. My definition of class and pedigree [even people’s vices at the time had class] is visually anchored in the 1950s, despite the locale. To be honest, some of the classiest people in Bulgarian public life, of stage, music and screen rose to prominence during the 50s and 60s, despite communism’s long and over-extending shadow. To be introduced to a point of view, which has experienced those days firsthand, is thrilling to me as a reader. To have my Peeping Tom tendencies tickled, oh what joy. 

Lauren Bacall is a sympathetic voice. I adore every chipper and honest sound she creates with her persona. If America can boast with sweethearts, then Lauren Bacall would be one of them, but let’s track back to the sounds and the book. It’s rarely that I ‘hear’. I either experience the wonders of ‘hallucinations’ reading or feel through every page. This is the first book to have me imagine the voice of the author and narrate every sentence to me. I think that this method of reading was enhanced by the fact that I couldn’t place any faces to names as I’m probably the worst physiognomist in the world. The only other option for me was to direct my mind in a different direction. I’m saying this a reader, it’s fun to re-invent the act of reading. You get something more, something else and unknown, if you fine tune your perception and approach any work in a distinct way. I guess that’s also a reason why people tend to re-read, but this is topic for another post.

Last, but not least, the rise and fall of any artistic soul is relatable to every other. It makes no difference, if you are a dancer, writer, singer, painter, sculptor or actor as the case is, feelings of anxiety, fear, hope, pleasure and love for the craft are universal. It’s uplifting to read about the success of a talented and pure human being and dream that the big break is right around the corner. I also assume that readers, who have been through the ups and down career-wise can relate to Bacall’s hurdles and struggles. All in all, I’m happy.