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Plentiful in some areas, lacking in others
on 1 February 2011
Like most fans of Simon Pegg, I first discovered him and his work with the seminal sitcom "Spaced" he co-wrote and co-starred in with Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), and ever since I've been delighted to see him and the phenomenally inventive director Edgar Wright create some of the funniest and best-made films around ("Shaun Of The Dead" and "Hot Fuzz"). With this autobiography, I was eager to read the behind-the-scenes journey of how Pegg ascended from fan to creator and how these beloved shows and films got made.
Let me first say that there's much about this book that I really enjoyed. The majority of it focuses on Pegg's childhood and school career and there are some fond, well-told reminiscences of his early influences in theatre and comedy, teachers who inspired and spurred him on, and even his first faltering steps into sex and romance (including a sweetly-told anecdote of his love for a French exchange student), along with a colourful general background of growing up in Gloucester.
We also get a few mini-essays, in which Pegg goes off on a tangent to share his often insightful thoughts on, say, the cultural significance of the original "Star Wars" trilogy or the symbolic meaning behind zombies in classic horror films.
However, there's also much about this book that disappointed / frustrated me, and will probably disappoint a lot of other Pegg fans.
Firstly, the narrative is wilfully scattershot, jumping back and forth a lot, which makes it hard to keep track of when we are in Pegg's life and what happened in which year. It can also make it feel as if certain stretches of the narrative go on forever, as we keep jumping back to an event we've already read about, whilst other events are referred to obliquely out of context but never actually placed in time.
Secondly, the autobiography is interspersed with chapters of a (fake) novel that Pegg is writing. This novel is written as a parody of self-aggrandizing fan fic, in which Pegg depicts himself as a jet-setting secret agent with a robot butler; the 'poor' writing is quite funny and nicely observed, and the chapters are brief and infrequent, so this element probably wouldn't bother me if it weren't that:
Thirdly, and most frustrating, there's hardly anything about the making of "Spaced", his films or his working and personal relationships with Jessica Hynes, Edgar Wright et al. This is undoubtedly what many Pegg fans will be salivating for when buying this book and there's a crushing disappointment that comes in realising that, with only 50 pages of book left to go, this whole period of Pegg's life is just going to be skimmed over.
Ultimately, this is the autobiography that Simon Pegg wanted to write; not necessarily the one that some of his fans would want to read. What is featured in this book is interesting, well-told and often poignant; however, it's unavoidably overshadowed by what ISN'T featured, whilst the book could also have benefitted from some tighter or more straightforward structuring. Now that the hardback price has come down, well worth a try with those caveats in mind.