Maybe its part of a mid-life identity crisis, but as a second- and third-generation American, I've discovered that I'm becoming increasingly interested in immigrant stories. Craig Ferguson has quite the immigrant story. He's also got an addiction-and-recovery story; a true Hollywood story; a not-quite rags-to-riches story; and a couple of triumph of hope over experience stories (he's on his third marriage after two divorces). All of those stories are his own life story, told in this straightforward, traditional autobiography, and I found it very funny, occasionally shocking, and surprisingly moving.
Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland as the third of four children in a working-class Presbyterian family, Craig Ferguson hated school and had no idea what he wanted to do with his life - until he discovered America. A visit to New York City as a young teenager firmed up his ambition: he would live in America one day. He had no idea how hed get there, or what hed do once he did, but it was going to happen. And it did, eventually, although there were quite a few rocks and forks in the road, and the first attempt didnt take.
While Ferguson became an American on purpose, much of his early work came about by accident and/or by acquaintance - that is, there were people he wanted to hang out with, and he was drawn to try the things they did. Ferguson left school at sixteen, but he was an avid reader and eager to educate himself on his own, and he gravitated toward creative people - musicians, actors, writers, and artists. He also gravitated toward illicit drugs and, especially, alcohol, and the combination led to an increasingly unstable life of small successes and larger disappointments until he finally admitted he had a problem and that he needed to make it stop.
Sober for almost 20 years now, and in America for almost that long (as a naturalized citizen since 2008), Craig Ferguson has had varying degrees of success in a range of show-business jobs - actor, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director, stand-up comic, and currently as the host of a late-night TV talk show. Ive been watching that show for a little more than a year (via DVR - I am NOT a late-night person) and Ive really grown to like it. In addition to the humor, I think one of its strengths comes from Fergsuons genuine interest in having real conversations with many of his guests.
In this book, particularly in the audio version, Ferguson's genuine interest seems to be in taking an honest, warts-and-all look at where hes been and who hes become. Sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes deeply self-critical, and sometimes seemingly awed by the turns his life has taken, hes a good writer and an engaging narrator, and I found his story far more interesting than I expected to - I listened to it at every opportunity. I appreciated his openness about his less-laudable life choices, and his generosity toward those whod been particularly significant both professionally and personally, including a few long-term girlfriends and three wives. In spite of - or perhaps partly because of - his somewhat regrettable past, Craig Ferguson strikes me as being a genuinely decent guy.
My husband read American on Purpose in paperback last year and has been after me to read it for months now. The books still on my nightstand, but thanks to audio, I get to move it to the read column; I'm glad I listened to it - and to my husband.