It’s difficult not to compare each new humorous-actor-memoir to those that have come before, particularly during the festive season when so many are released. This year Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody (Simon & Schuster) is up against Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can, which Random House have cannily timed for both Christmas and the Netflix release of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
In Scrappy Little Nobody, Kendrick beats the reader to any unfavourable comparisons by acknowledging that, unlike herself, her professional idols who’ve written books are ‘accomplished comedy writers’ (presumably Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer, whose first book was also published this year). This leads to one of Kendrick’s several casual unmaskings of the absurdity of fame and celebrity culture; she was offered the book deal merely on the basis of her Twitter feed.
Don’t let that put you off; Kendrick proves to be extremely readable, and perhaps more surprisingly for a young successful actress, remarkably sane. Alongside the expected funny (and sometimes slightly oversharing) childhood and teenage anecdotes, it’s Kendrick’s clear-sighted vision of the madness around her that really stands out. With all the bafflement of Sean or Beverly from Episodes, Kendrick documents her early encounters with child-star hopefuls at New York auditions, and makes the jaw-dropping revelation that following her Oscar nomination for Up in the Air, a supposed ‘big break’, she was struggling to pay rent.
Kendrick completely eschews the tendency of other actor-cum-memoirists to namedrop every other bigwig they’ve ever worked or shared a lift with (I’m looking at you, Amy Poehler). This is perhaps a symptom of the fact that Scrappy Little Nobody doesn’t include the expected full catalogue of set stories running the gamut of Kendrick’s career. Of course there are some, but they’re always thoughtful, meaningful inclusions. Everything in the book serves to make a larger point, be it to underscore a problem in the entertainment industry, offer a lesson about familial love, or deliver a punchline (often with Kendrick herself featuring as the butt of the joke).
Kendrick’s refusal to toe the line of celeb memoir convention is charming. Where others would reflect on Twilight to exploit a connection to mega stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Kendrick fleetingly quips about how the franchise gave her years’ worth of steady paychecks. The subversion of tropes continues into Scrappy Little Nobody’s parodic reading group guide and ‘about the author’ section, which simply reads ‘Anna Kendrick is shorter in person’. If only as much thought had gone into the cover, which, in stark contrast to the book’s contents, is bland in the extreme.
Kendrick brings humour, sanity and a healthy dose of cynicism to her memoirs, and for those needing something a little more warm and cosy over the holidays, affectionate childhood memories of her older brother Mike, who chaperoned her to auditions as a youngster.