Circumstances conspired to keep the Hive Mind from recording this week: Bec was overseas and in transit Monday and Tuesday, and it was Chinese New Year over the weekend (meaning we all had family dinners to attend). So this time, we’re doing something a little different: one Hive Minder (Karen) is going to rabbit on about something she’s enjoyed recently in prose. Enjoy!
I’ve been listening to Anna Kendrick read her memoir, Scrappy Little Nobody via Audible. As Bec mentioned in an earlier episode of our podcast, “[Audible is] the best way to read when you’re doing other things”, and I totally concur: I really love that I can “read” while doing such mundane things as cooking, vacuuming, ironing, stuffing envelopes and even walking to school at pick-up time. Audible even makes me look forward to doing housework because I can dive into the book I’m currently reading.
Back to Anna Kendrick. If you don’t know who Anna Kendrick is (and part of me cannot believe you wouldn’t know who she is), she is an American actress and singer best known for her work in Up in the Air (for which she earned herself an Oscar nomination), Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 (and 3! ACA-AWESOME!), Into the Woods and, of course, the Twilight movies. (She was the best thing about the Twilight movies, IMHO. Don’t believe me? Watch her wedding speech in Breaking Dawn:
I don’t normally read celebrity biographies—even for celebrities I love—but I had to make an exception for Anna Kendrick. She is one of the only actors I follow on Twitter—mostly because other actors are boring and she is far from boring; she’s witty and interesting and also extremely funny. When I heard about her book, I knew I had to read it, but when I found out that she reads the audiobook, I knew I definitely had to have her read it to me.
(If you want to know what she sounds like, you can listen to an excerpt here:
Or visit the publisher’s site and scroll down to “Hear an excerpt”.)
(Incidentally, a decent chunk of the book was read while driving back from the Blue Mountains with some friends, who enjoyed hearing Kendrick read the book to them as much as I did. One of them even decided to track it down later when she had to leave my car.)
Scrappy Little Nobody is a “collection of humorous autobiographical essays” by Kendrick that recount the story of her life from her beginnings as a child actor to her first ever Broadway appearance (for which she earned a Tony award nomination) to her move to Los Angeles to try and break into the film industry to her present career (well sort of). I found it interesting not just because origin stories for creative people always fascinate me (and I find it amazing that Kendrick knew what she wanted to do with her life so young and gave it all she had, succeeding despite the odds [with much family support, of course, though I must admit that the thought of one of my daughters moving to a strange city at the age of 17 to try and make a career in acting, knowing no one and not going into a standard job, totally freaks me out]). But I also found the book interesting because Kendrick’s wonderfully quirky personality shines through on every page. For example,
There was a small window in my early childhood when I wanted to be a doctor. This was inspired by my pediatrician, a relatively young man whom I called Dr. Handsome. I had assumed this was because his name was Dr. Hasen or Dr. Branson, but I recently found out his name was Dr. Ritger, so I guess I should have just died at age four when I decided to call my physician Dr. Handsome without so much as a pun to justify it.
(I’d be interested to know whether people who read the book in print still hear her voice in their heads as they read.)
One of my favourite chapters in the book is the one where she talks about her first ever serious boyfriend, Landon, and her eagerness to be “normal” and have a “normal” relationship:
After a satisfactory couple of months, I felt more committed to this “dating” experiment and started subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) making a bizarre coming-of-age checklist. Had I learned nothing from my beads and lipstick penpal episode? It was mostly stuff I’d seen in movies, and I knew it was stupid, but every milestone gave me a sense that I was approaching normalcy. Nothing in my life was going especially well at that point, but if the guy I was seeing burned a CD for me (check!), it felt like I was becoming a standard American adult.
She then goes on to outline some of the other items on her checklist right down to the stereotypical relationship break-up.
The book is also peppered with interesting stories and anecdotes from the different things Kendrick has done throughout the course of her career—for example, what it’s like to work with George Clooney, the miserable conditions during the filming of the Bella and Edward wedding scene in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, what award shows are actually like behind the scenes (and the truth behind what it’s like to walk the red carpet), and that time Zac Efron threw up on her during the filming of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. I liked learning more about her body of work as I was only familiar with a fraction of it, and reading the book made me go off and research some of the more obscure parts she has played—for example, Camp, where she sings Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company as Fritzi and completely kills it:
(I so want to see Kendrick sing more Sondheim.) And her bit with Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black at the 2015 Academy Awards (which I unfortunately missed that year—boo):
(It starts about 3:08 minutes in.)
There is also a very tongue-in-cheek bonus reading group guide at the end for those who like to talk about the books they read with other people. And the audiobook comes with a downloadable PDF containing photos contained in the print book—like Anna as a toddler or the time that Warner Bros hired a private plane to fly her and Ben Affleck back from the Oscars to set for the filming of The Accountant.
Overall, I really really enjoyed the book (and Kendrick’s reading of it; there is nothing like having Anna Kendrick yell in your ear!) I loved learning more about Kendrick and getting to know her better as a person. I loved that she wasn’t afraid to be quirky and weird, but had come to accept herself just as she was, without feeling the need to tailor herself for other people.
But I did feel that the last quarter of the book ran out of steam a little—perhaps because Kendrick didn’t have the freedom be more open and honest about things that have happened in the recent past as she is still young, working and living her life (and still needs to be able to get on with and work with other people in the film industry). The chapter titled “Fake parties I have planned with the detail of a real party” was amusing, but probably could have been cut as it dragged the narrative down somewhat. But I hope that means that there will be more books from Kendrick in the future, regaling us with more wonderful stories of her life and career the way that Carrie Fisher did.
Let me finish by showing you a clip of Kendrick as a 13-year-old, singing “Life upon the wicked stage” with a troupe of underwear-clad chorus girls:
She is just amazing.
Bonus: what I’m working on
In our last episode, I mentioned the storytelling workshop I ran for the Sydney Comics Guild camp. That was a couple of weekends ago and I think it went well; at least three people came up to me afterwards and told me it was good.
The camp itself was great: everything was quite laidback, there was a lot of time to get creative stuff done (so I actually managed to do a big slab of writing, working on one of the short stories I keep talking about), I did a critique session with a comics creator who seemed to find my feedback and advice helpful, and I attended a workshop on professional business coaching for creatives, which was quite fascinating (though a lot of it focussed on visual arts and art licensing, which I knew nothing about). (Incidentally, this article on how Beatrix Potter invented character merchandising is a fascinating look at a time when art licensing was not a thing and Potter pretty much made it into a thing.)
These next couple of weeks are going to be a bit insane as there are a lot of things happening and not a lot of time for creative work, but I hope I can keep at it in the cracks. Wish me luck!