Brat by Andrew McCarthy

I recommended to a friend on Twitter that she listen to the audiobook, Brat by Andrew McCarthy – it’s his memoir about the eighties (read by him).

And then this happened:

I squealed.

My kids came running. I told them that Andrew McCarthy had tweeted me. Before they could say anything (‘Who?’), I said Pretty-in-Pink-St-Elmo’s-Fire-Andrew-McCarthy.

It is possibly the highlight of my 11 years on Twitter.

So, here’s the thing about celebrity memoirs – depending on the celebrity, you are either absolutely going to read it, regardless of reviews, or you’re never going to read it in a million years. Whatever I say about Brat will not make an iota of difference. Of course that won’t stop me sharing my thoughts.

Brat is tightly focused on the eighties, and McCarthy is honest about his anxiety, the beginning of his alcohol addiction, and what I interpreted as intense loneliness.

There is all the expected name-dropping that goes with any celebrity memoir, however, the striking thing about McCarthy’s accounts is how fleeting they were. I lost count of the celebrities he mentioned, and then added “I never saw them again” (Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Henry Winkler to name a few). This, along with his anxiety, painted an interesting picture – McCarthy was successful, despite not having the hustle that you assume is a requirement for someone breaking into movies. By his own admission, much of his success was dumb luck.

It’s impossible not to make comparisons between Brat and Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Lowe’s memories of certain situations were quite different to McCarthy’s. McCarthy claims he was never actually part of the Brat Pack, but the timing of St Elmo’s Fire associated him with the group. Where Lowe’s telling of events are confident and cheeky, McCarthy’s are hesitant and self-doubting.

McCarthy is honest about his family and childhood, particularly the strained relationship with his father. I’m sure he’s spent years in therapy untangling it, but I was particularly struck by his account of seeing his father on his death bed, which he concluded with –

We didn’t right our wrongs, nor resolve our past, but simply put our burdens down.

It was said with such deep feeling and authenticity, and I was reminded why it is so wonderful to hear an author read their own words.

There’s a note of sadness that runs through much of this memoir – this sadness doesn’t reach an expected climax (rehab, movies that flop, or missing out on roles) but nevertheless, I got the sense that he’d somehow resolved it. Perhaps the answer is in this book.

4/5 An insightful walk down memory lane.

17 responses

  1. I had a similar reaction when Jerry O’Connell liked one of my tweets πŸ˜€ Clearly our childhood icons spend a lot of time on twitter!

    It won’t surprise you that I’m in the ‘I’ll read this regardless’ camp, but actually it sounds a lot more interesting than I expected.

    How in keeping with their 80s teen personas that Rob Lowe is confident and cheeky, and Andrew McCarthy is more hesitant – that pleases me for some reason!

  2. Memoirs are sometimes interesting for their own sake and I don’t mind listening to them, though I’d never actually read one (well one, Milly has just given me a Leonard Cohen so I don’t have much choice). That said, I have never heard of the brat pack (wasn’t that Sinatra & co?) nor of McCarthy, and no his picture rings no bells.
    Glad you liked it though, and yes always amazing to get an author response, let alone a celebrity response.

  3. Thanks for that. I saw another review the other day by someone who didn’t really like it, so I’m happy about yours. I read a light novel about him years ago, “Looking for Andrew McCarthy” by Jenny Colgan.

    After your review, I might pick this up. Thanks.

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