Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

From the minute I heard about this book, I knew it would be genius. I was already psyched about a memoir by Neil Patrick Harris, and when I heard it would be a Choose Your Own Adventure format? Awesome. I had no idea how that would be pulled off but I also knew that if anyone could do it, it would be NPH.

I watched every episode of "Doogie Howser M.D." I watched every episode of "How I Met Your Mother." I haven't seen him in any stage productions unfortunately (I have seen several that he was in, including "Proof" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," but not with him in them.) And I am a fan. After seeing him last month in "Gone Girl," I am also just so impressed with his range. But he also seems like such an interesting guy. And he is!

It's refreshing to read a Hollywood bio that doesn't have a horrible childhood. He grew up in New Mexico with a great older brother and great parents, who were supportive and helpful all along the way. He started acting in a school play and then went to acting summer camp, and the rest is history. The director of the summer camp was casting for a movie, which was "Clara's Heart" starring Whoopi Goldberg, and Neil got the part. He never looked back. Although he did have to fight hard after "Doogie" to not be typecast. Playing the lead in "Rent" definitely helped (I remember hearing about that at the time and being baffled by what seemed like really bad casting, because I too had pigeonholed him.) Meanwhile, he was coming to terms with his sexuality, eventually meeting David and having twins (I'm not giving away anything that you don't already know from People Magazine.) And he does magic.

So, how does the Choose Your Own Adventure format work? Well, there are about 8 fake endings, which are just a single page each and pretty funny. Otherwise, while you can skip around in the normal CYOA way (To get into a fight with Scott Caan, turn to page 20.) Some of them just lead you down different paths to the same ending (you might first learn about his acting, then his personal life, then his magic. Or first his magic, then his personal life, and the acting last.) But the truth is, you really can just read straight through. I was concerned about missing anything. I am a complete-ist (if I am going to finish the book, that is) and it was so funny that the last thing I wanted was to miss any jokes. For a while I used two bookmarks, one to mark the last page sequentially that I had read, and the other to mark where I was with following the CYOA jumps. But eventually (about halfway in) I just started reading straight through and it was perfectly fine that way (although some of those fake endings seemed to come out of nowhere and were abrupt. But that was just funny, too.) He also includes about ten essays from friends, fellow actors, and so on, such as Sarah Silverman and Penn Jillette. And he includes a couple of drinks recipes, a recipe for David's fresh pasta with Bolognese sauce, and a crossword. Also a few magic tricks. Seriously, he tells you what to do, and at the end he tells you what card you picked. It's impressive for a book! There are sketches throughout (I was disappointed they weren't by NPH) and one chapter is annotated by David and there are other unusual meta-bits and silliness. I have never had so much fun reading a celebrity memoirs. And the book's not just ridiculous and fluffy--he does actually get through all the facts and details along the way.

So notice is now out: NPH has raised the bar for celebrity memoirs, and I hope everyone else steps it up to compete, because the reading world will be the richer for it.

I bought this book at B&N.

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