Sep 27, 2018

[Books] You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams Audible Review


After the heaviness of You're Not My Father's Son, I was rather surprised at the starkly different tone of Alan Cumming's third memoir, You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams.

To be fair, it's like I expect all of his creative ventures outside of his entertainment work to be about emotionally significant aspects of his personal life. But this was a very different book indeed in terms of tone and approach.

This book is not just comparatively lighter but it's simply delightful and is more a celebration of things that he loves and things he has chosen to commemorate in photos.

This is still an intimate sharing of his life, but in a completely different way.

Synopsis: You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures is a collection of personal essays and photos by Alan Cumming. This review covers the Audible audiobook, which may not be the best version of the book to experience as the photos are only viewable as a separate PDF.

The book starts describing Alan Cumming's first brush with photography. And while that instance go particularly far, it helped frame how much he came to love photography later in life. And thus the book goes through these different stories of his life with different photos as sort of touchstones or anchor points. They help give the story focus or at least some interesting prompts.

But beyond the photos, there are some great stories here and he shares many different parts of his life and many different interesting experience. We learn about his dog and of course his many celebrity stories and even some aspects of his life as a gay man in the public eye. And tim and time again we return to a charming photo that helps sort of mark that moment in his life.

What I Liked: As an audiobook, this was a rather charming experience. Hearing Alan Cumming's voice as he relates these different stories makes it all feel like the natural discourse over the course of an afternoon over tea or maybe a few drinks depending on your fancy. A lot of the anecdotes can feel a little random in a strictly narrative sense but if you think about this as a conversation then it totally feels natural and organic. And I think that's sort of what he's going for.

And man, these photos are gems because they're not clean press-worthy photos but they are very much actual photos that he has taken over the years with different photographic devices. He proudly proclaims to love selfies and feels he was one of the those on the forefront of the movement even before smartphone cameras made selfies so easy. And a lot of his photos feature him in various states, forever leaving these impressions of him across time.

What Could Have Been Better: Again, this is not a great audiobook since a key part of the experience is visual and the book loses that to some degree. This is particularly true for how must of us utilize Audiobook services like Audible - which means listening while driving, commuting, walking or otherwise being engaged with other activities. We're not always in a state when we can look away from what we're doing in order to enjoy the accompanying photos in the PDF. It's a limitation of the medium, not the source material.

The book is very light and if you're looking for more "dirt" as it were given how a lot of people tend to review such celebrity memoirs. This not to say that Mr. Cumming only has good stories to share of course. But it's largely quite light and at times fluffy, which may be good or may be bad depending on your expectations.

TL;DR: You Gotta Get Better Dreams is a charming little book and one that I wish I had first experienced as a physical book instead of an audiobook. But this Audible experience will allow you to feel somewhat closer to the work as you listen to him read his stories and that helps. Thus the book gets a good 3.5 charming photos out of a possible 5.


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