Funny Peculiar, The Autobiography
288 pages • Sphere • October 11, 2012 [HB]
I have a confession to make. Now, it’s something that may surprise a lot of you, and it’s something I’m not even sure I’ve ever admitted out loud, but … I LOVE WILL YOUNG. I always have.
Since winning Pop Idol in 2002, we’ve not only seen Will Young have a successful singing career, with 5 studio albums and a greatest hits under his belt, but also acting, both on stage and screen to critical acclaim, and now writing. This, his 3rd book (preceded by Anything Is Possible and On Camera, Off Duty) is subtitled ‘The Autobiography’, but I feel that this does the book disservice. As you’ll discover on opening this book, Will Young isn’t exactly what you’d call normal … surely a compliment in this day and age … and this is no normal autobiography. Written more like a novel than a bog standard memoir, we are taken from the present day (and a very inappropriate introduction on a TV show) to Will’s childhood, which comes out sounding like Boy by Rold Dahl being retold by Bridget Jones – only ever a good thing. We’re then lead on a totally non-linear journey through his term at Arts Educational drama school, Pop Idol and his private life and career, interspersed with hilarious coffee dates with best friend, Michael, who features in some of the books most amusing moments.
Funny Peculiar had me laughing from the off – Will has a way of recounting a story that not only brings out the insane humour of each situation, by also giving us an insight into his constant internal dialogue, but also getting his teeth into you and not letting you go. We’re not merely treated to a blow by blow account of events, but we climb into Will’s head (a little like Being John Malkovich – I wonder where the porthole to Will’s head is … probably through one of the lockers at Arts Educational!). Many chapters had me laughing out loud (mostly on the tube … slightly embarrassing!) and, like any good raconteur, Will can so obviously see the humour in each situation, which makes the hilarity feel mutual and thus even more enjoyable. It’s not all amusing Miranda-esque situations though … Will also takes us through the difficulty of him coming to terms with his sexuality and his ongoing battle with depression, both of which are discussed honestly and openly. Often criticised for his reluctance to talk about his sexuality publically, Will confronts this head on in this book, talking in depth about his choice to be a non-offensive gay man in the media with refreshing honesty.
It’s also fascinating to read about how much control he’s really had over his career, and the occasional homophobia he’s encountered in the music industry, and to know that it’s all come directly from his pen, rather than that of a ghost writer or editor. At times this does make the book a rather clunky read, but I’d rather the occasional badly written sentence than a perfect book written by someone on his behalf.
It’s comforting, after years of referring to myself as “the gay Bridget Jones”, to know I’m not the only man that gets himself into these hilarious, almost unbelievably awkward situations. I too have a terrible habit of not engaging my brain before my mouth, and I imagine, if I was famous, I would do this to incredibly famous people as well, just like Will. (In fact, I’m sure at points I already have, but this isn’t about me!)
If you like Will Young, and have any interest in his life or career then this book is a must read. However, if you like neurotic Miranda-style awkward humour, you could also get a kick out of Will’s stories. His is a very brave book, tackling the day to day goings on in Wills head as much as his day to day life as a celebrity, and it’s all the better for it. The reader is treated almost like a friend or confident, and I for one was certainly sad when the book was over, yearning for more tales of celebrity faux pas and brutal, gut wrenching honesty. Maybe someone should give Will a column … that way I could get a regular fix.