Wednesday, November 08, 2023

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Up to a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Jennette McCurdy.

If you don't know who she is, this is what Wikipedia notes:

Jennette Michelle Faye McCurdy (born June 26, 1992) is an American actress, singer, and writer. McCurdy's breakthrough role as Sam Puckett in the Nickelodeon sitcom iCarly (2007–2012) earned her four Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. She reprised the character in the iCarly spin-off series Sam & Cat (2013–2014) before leaving Nickelodeon. McCurdy also appeared in the television series Malcolm in the Middle (2003–2005), Zoey 101 (2005), Lincoln Heights (2007), True Jackson, VP (2009–2010), and Victorious (2012). She produced, wrote, and starred in her own webseries, What's Next for Sarah? (2014), and led the science-fiction series Between (2015–2016).

McCurdy independently released her debut single, "So Close", in 2009. She released her debut EP, Not That Far Away, in 2010, followed in 2012 by the Jennette McCurdy EP and the Jennette McCurdy studio album. The lead single, "Generation Love", reached number 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs.

In 2017, McCurdy quit acting to pursue a career in writing and directing. In 2020, she began hosting an interview podcast, Empty Inside. In 2022, she released a memoir, I'm Glad My Mom Died, which quickly topped bestseller lists and received critical acclaim for her description of the pressures she faced as a child star and the abusive behavior of her since-deceased mother.

Here's how I met her: I had just finished listening to one of Malcolm Gladwell's great books (audiobook that is), when to my horror I realized that my entire listening shelf was empty, as the Montgomery County Library listening app (Libby) automatically returns books on your shelf when they're due - imagine that!

I searched for any available audio book, and the first one on the list was some weird juvenile audience book read by a young girl, the next one a Stephen King book that I've read before, the third one a recent book by one of the British princes, and the fourth one was I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy.

The title and the image on the cover caught my eye, and as I was driving, I veered off my lane a little, over corrected, put my cell down, and noted to myself to stop doing dangerous shit like that while driving.

When I arrived where I was going, I parked, retrieved my cell phone and studied the image, which shows a smiling young woman, a tiny woman from the look of her impossibly small waist, holding a pink urn filled with what looks like confetti.

I clicked the "Play a sample" and was immediately assaulted by the fastest speaking human being that I have ever heard on an audiobook and only surpassed that those speeded up people who super-fast-speak all the disclaimers at the end of a commercial.

The narrator is McCurdy, and the speed of her reading is not just remarkable, but a little outside of human capacity, so I have a suspicion of the possibility of an alien abduction of her mom by some alien race able to speak at multiple times the "normal" speech pattern of a human being - even more pronounced by the fact that (technically) she's reading!

And thus, I decided to "borrow" the book and listen to it - enthralled and seduced by the machine gun staccato of her narration.  You are now judging me by saying: "Lenny Campello, you picked a book because of the voice of the narrator?"

Duh! If you are a constant reader of my rantings, then you know that I an easily seduced by voices, be it the irritating phenomenon of "vocal fry", or the strangely-patterned diction of Michael Barbaro, the host of The New York Times news podcast, The Daily, or the NPR ads lady with the "most beautiful voice on the planet."

And thus McCurdy had me within the first 23 seconds of her narration.

The book (by the way) is a raw and spectacular memoir and a brutally honest description of the creation of a child actress star.  A creation guided by, driven by, and controlled by, a mother singularly and terrifyingly focused on making a star out of her daughter.

It is also a book that manages to combine two completely opposites: it is both incredibly funny and heart-breaking sad.

McCurdy has the rare ability to place you next to her when she auditions, in the shower with her when her mother bathes her through her teens, at the table when she is forced to manage her calories and develops into a full-blown bulimic, when she has her first kiss (a screen kiss), and so on. And all through the book we manage to teleport through emotions that are sad, horrific, anger, to the extremes of being super funny at times.

This is an impossibly fucking hard thing to do! She machine-gun sprays you with a few thousand words in 30 seconds as she describes her first period and you feel sorry for her. Suddenly she sprays a torrent of sentences without taking a break and has you in stitches of laughter.

This tiny woman is a genius!

The book will break your heart, as McCurdy pours her out. It will also make you laugh, while reminding you that sometimes laughter can also be sad.  I give it my highest possible recommendation!