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Billy Hardcover – 1 Oct 2001
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Billy Connolly is loud, hilarious and contradictory. His biography, written by his wife, former comedian and practising psychotherapist Pamela Stephenson, is pretty much the same. Over the years Connolly has grown from Glasgow shipyard welder to folk-singing beardy hard man (yes there is such a thing) to darling of the good and great (or at least famous) around the world. That he is so many things to so many people while in no way compromising his core self can only be good. It would be no mean feat for Stephenson, then, to pen a history to that would satisfy Connolly audiences of fans and contemporaries from all periods of his life's journey. In most places, but in truth, not all, the author manages to do this well.
The first half of the biography is somewhat anthropological in tone. Not surprisingly, a post-war Glasgow upbringing is somewhat alien to the antipodean author and Stephenson errs towards Angela's Ashes intonation as she describes her husband's tenement childhood (Scots readers may also find her regular translation of seemingly self-explanatory Scots phrases--which Connolly would use--obtuse). In contrast her examination of her experience of living with the comedian and his life from that point on is much better. Anecdotes which Connolly uses in his live shows pepper the text and laughs are raised as he tells of the time he was mistaken as a drug dealer on Speyside, of his cheeky friendships with cinema's elite and even through the more difficult times; the difficulty of balancing an almost manic humour with a troubled life. Pages turn quickly as we grow to understand more of what makes the man tick.
Certainly fans of Billy Connolly will enjoy this book. It is not perfect but it is certainly entertaining and should fill a gap in the market until Billy--with his half-remembered stories and off-centre view of the world--decides to let us into his head as well as his history. There's surely one ideal way to do this and that's by writing his story himself. --Helen Lamont
‘Searingly honest, it’s an engrossing story told with all the winning warmth and insight we have come to expect from clinical psychologist and former comedian, Pamela.’ Woman’s WeeklySee all Product description
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His wife Pamela, who is a physcologist, examines how this upbringing has produced this unique individual.
When she heard that he was getting and honorary Doctorate, her response was - You bastard! I worked for six years to get mine, and they're giving you one for nothing!
There are possibly some, though I'd suspect they were mostly poetry or books like The Two of Us: My Life with John Thaw (by Sheila Hancock) written as a eulogy.
Couple this with Dr Stephenson-Connolly's PhD in Psychology & you have something utterly unique, which must have been hellishly difficult to write without at least one argument with the man himself.
But it is this uniqueness that gets to the heart of what makes Billy tick. A man so complex requires many years of study & is very likely a degree subject in his own right, with a unique gift for making life funny & yet underlying quirks & tensions which would send lesser men crazy.
The thing I enjoyed most about this CD is it didn't over-bake its premise. Yes, it is very analytical, but not in a cruel, Freudian way or a doting schmaltzy way either. Primarily, it is a biography of Billy, with a lot of detail about his abusive childhood, coupled with excerpts from his modern life offering explanation for why he behaves in certain ways.
It moves through his meteoric rise from welder, to folk singer to plain stand-up comic & then goes through all the relationship difficulties & addictions he was facing at the time when he met Pamela Stephenson.
Happily, I didn't detect any self-righteousness, condescension or bitterness throughout the whole book. From appearances, Billy & the author were a good match & I suppose any cracks in the relationship would have made a book such as this impossible.
All this said, I do find myself agreeing with tinsoldier100550's review in criticizing the author's writing (or rather reading) style & her Pam-ism's. This book is hardly heavy-weight & is not really a very objective study of its subject, shying away from really thorough analysis.
Putting that aside, I think a balance is achieved between wanton Poetic fan-letter & dry psychological analysis & the book mostly steers a course down the middle, making for easy listening. It's always fascinating to learn about someone's rise from poverty to fame & this Biography achieves most of its aims.
Overall? Thoroughly recommended as something unusual to think about while commuting.
As his wife, Pamela Stephenson's prose could have lapsed into mawkishness or avoided the more sensitive issues. It didn't.
I would recommend any Billy Connelly fan to read this book.
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She read it start to finish in 1 week. Loved it.
Silly me - of course she did --- thanks