Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams – Alan Cumming

bigger-dreamsLast year I listened to the unabridged audio version of Alan Cumming’s memoir Not My Father’s Son. It was an incredibly moving book about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father as a boy, and the journey (literal and metaphorical) that he took as an adult to find out more about his family’s past. It’s an astonishing book that manages to be uplifting and ultimately positive despite its grim subject matter.

It’s important to remember the dark days of Alan’s childhood when you open his new book, You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures. The first story deals with how he became interested in photography and having the ability to express himself generally: he won a camera in a raffle. He proudly took photos around the family farm, but for some reason he kept framing the pictures so that their subjects were far to the left. His father – not known for his tolerance – got so angry about this that he confiscated the camera and Alan was no longer allowed to take pictures. As he grew up he rediscovered his love of taking photos, it is a joyful thing in his life, and every picture is a tiny “f*** you” to his tyrannical father.

The word that kept coming to me through this book was “joy”. It’s a large format book with glossy pages, all the better for showing off the large number of photographs. Interspersed between the pictures are stories and anecdotes: gossipy, witty, and poignant. There’s the first time he met the inimitable Elizabeth Taylor at a party and ending up “flanking” her. There’s his unembarrassed love for Croc shoes and how he converted Helen Mirren to their comforts. There are beautiful stories about his husband, Grant, and their lives together. And there’s the trans-American roadtrip he took with only his beloved dog Honey for company. He’s vocal about his politics (both in the UK and in the US; he has dual-nationality), about LGBT rights, and about artistic freedom. He’s self-deprecating and funny, and sees the ridiculousness of celebrity. He loves yoga, but once got into trouble in a gym for wearing a “F*** Yoga” tshirt (while doing yoga).

You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams – the title is a reference to advice Oprah gave a friend of his – is a hugely cheering, life-affirming, joyful thing. It made me happy. It also made me want to go for drinks with Alan Cumming because I’m pretty sure it would be an absolute hoot.

Also recommended: follow Alan on Instagram for more photos and videos. 

Alan Cumming: You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams (New York: Rizzoli, 2016)

 

2 comments on “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams – Alan Cumming

  1. Mary Smith
    November 23, 2016

    Heard him being interviewed about this book on the radio this afternoon. It sounds wonderful – am putting it on my Christmas wish list 🙂

  2. Alwynne
    November 24, 2016

    I echo your enthusiasm for “Not My Father’s Son”, Kirsty. I read it last summer and found it both harrowing and inspiring. Plus he’s terrific as Eli Gold in “The Good Wife”.

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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