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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Review: Not My Father's Son

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir - Alan Cumming

Upfront, let me just say that I read Not My Father's Son because I enjoy Alan Cumming as an actor. Nothing shameful in that, though if memory serves me correctly, it is the first time I've read a book based on the author's non-author status. I figured if there were one actor whose memoir would be interesting, it would be Alan Cumming's.


Not My Father's Son  isn't about Cumming so much as it is about his father and his maternal grandfather. Half of the book's subject deals with Cumming coming to grip with his father's admission that he, Alan, is not his father's son. The other half deals with Cumming's experiences while filming a show entitled “Who Do You Think You Are?” where he traces the story of his grandfather. Now, the parts about Alan Cumming's father were interesting to me. He goes into his abusive childhood, into his relationship with his father, and delves deep into his father's psychology. I wanted to know more. Unfortunately, this was less than half the book. Cumming's search for his grandfather took up more space, and once the dust settles around the craziness of his situation with his father, this is what carries the book through its conclusion.


I understand this search was important for Cumming, but my inability to relate kept me at a significant distance. Perhaps it is because of my birth in the United States where heritage traditionally has meant so little (nothing?), or an indication of deeper identity or relationship issues, but had I been given the same information that Cumming had—the stories that floored him and left him gasping for more—I would've responded with a shrug and a heartless, “That's really great,” while thinking to myself I could care less.


It should be no surprise then that I cannot properly review this memoir. Obviously it was a very, very personal work for its author, but I just wasn't interested enough. Cumming wrote it well and it certainly has its moments where I'm sure most readers will feel its impact. Readers who are invested in their heritage and stories of families will get something out of this memoir. I just wasn't one of those readers. What I did get out of this book was an intense desire to again watch one of my favorite films, Titus. For that, I am pleased.