My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up

Russell Brand is a really, really good writer. This Booky Wook will no doubt leave you with that impression; he’s got the luscious vocabulary of a teenager who’s been studying non-stop for the SAT’s, except he actually knows how to insert his prized buzzwords into sentences. But beneath the richness of his word choices lies an honest, brutal, somewhat shocking recount of his early life, and it really puts all of his wackiness into clear perspective. By the end of the book you’re left exhausted but well-informed, as you are with his comedy and interviews. At least he’s consistent!

Brand really holds nothing back in this book. He talks about his father’s lascivious ways, his embarrassing behavior as a drug and sex addict, his inability to focus at school, everything that might otherwise paint a famous person in a bad light. Of course, a memoir is exactly the place to reveal information like this, but the difference is that Brand doesn’t blame anyone but himself for his past. He doesn’t point a finger at his father or his enabling friends or anything like that, and he definitely doesn’t feel sorry for himself. It’s refreshing listening to an account of someone who made bad choices and turns the blame inward. He also knows when to pull back from the comedy and talk about tragedy in a simple, respectful, eloquent way. One passage that struck me in this way was right at the beginning of the book:

p. 15 // “We all have an essential self, but if you spend every day chopping up meat on a slab, and selling it by the pound, soon you’ll find you’ve become a butcher. And if you don’t want to become a butcher (and why would you?) you’re going to have to cut right through to the bare bones of your own character in the hope of finding out who you really are. Which bloody hurts.”

He offers up advice throughout the book in this way, dishing it up but not necessarily considering himself mightier than anyone else and certainly not expecting anyone to take it. It’s quite humble and profound, and I thought it was more important to note than the constant hilarities he also came up with. Here are a few more:

p. 23 // “For me happiness occurs arbitrarily: a moment of eye contact on a bus, where all at once you fall in love; or a frozen second in a park where it’s enough that there are trees in the world.”

p. 123 // “One of my greatest pleasures in life is coining a mischievous that other people then have to accept as a linguistic fact. It’s exciting to be able to alter and interrupt language.”

p. 188 // “… stand-up comedy is the perfect career for me. Not just because I’m constantly scribbling notes inside my own mind to deal with the embarrassment I perpetually feel, but also because I’m always observing, always outside. It’s a perfectly natural dynamic for me to stand alone in front of thousands of people and tell ’em how I feel. The fact that I’ve managed to make it funny is bloody convenient, because I can’t think how else I would make them listen.”

p. 241 // “When it comes to your career, you must always try and allow the positive aspects of your character to dictate what happens to you. Be led by your talent, not by your self-loathing; those are other things you just have to manage.”

Of course, I must end this post on a funny note. I was elated after reading this next line, mostly because Brand put into words what I’ve been struggling to describe to people for years: my aversion to the word “panties.”

p. 74 // “… we say “knickers” for “panties.” When having sex with American women I struggle to say “panties” with any sincerity; to me it seems a bit pedophilic.”