Book Review: Can I Have Your Attention, Please? by James CordenPosted: January 10, 2012
I have to say I like James Corden, he usually comes across as fairly likeable and funny. Sure there have been times where I’ve thought he’s been a bit too cocky, and I thought the year he hosted the Brits with Kylie and Mathew Horne presented was pretty bad, but mainly because Horne looked like a sex offender and I feared for Miss Minogue’s safety.
I’m glad I got given it though as it turned out to be a wonderful little book, and in telling his life story Corden is amusing, honest and reflective, which are the key traits you want in an autobiography.
There’s also a delightful enthusiasm for his work, and Corden’s passion for acting and writing which is persuasive and draws you in. Also the unselfconscious glee he gets from meeting his idols is extremely endearing and you can’t help but warm to the guy.
For many, Corden appears to have been an overnight success thanks to the charming Gavin & Stacey which he wrote and starred in, but it turns out this was a good few years into his career. I’d seen him in Teachers, but it was only in reading the book that it became clear just how much work he’d actually done.
And its this that helps make the book and its narrator more likeable. He’s lucky, but there’s hard graft involved along the way. Corden talks about the less successful projects he worked on before, and of countless of auditions that resulted in rejections.
For me, this seems to be the hardest part of acting, the rejections. I was on the dole for about 2 years and during that period I got turned down for tons of jobs. Its soul destroying, and those were for jobs that mostly I didn’t even really want to do, but to be rejected for jobs that you do want in a career that you’re passionate about must be even worse. There’s something admirable in the way that Corden repeatedly picks himself up and has another go, where many people would be tempted to just throw in the towel.
And then slowly he starts to get success- a couple of minor film roles, some TV work and finally a monster hit of a play with History Boys, which leads to more film work. And then of course working on the script with Ruth Jones that leads to his biggest success and most famous role.
The fact that he’s had to work at it, and that he’s suffered failures along the way makes the story more interesting and relatable. It reminded me of Peter Kay’s book The Sound of Laughter, and in a way that doesn’t reflect positively on Kay. In Kay’s book he just appears to fall into stand up comedy and this leads him on the path to glory, there’s no stumbling or mistakes, its just a continuous climb from his first attempt onwards. Kay seems to suggest that his natural ability and skill was enough to pull him up to the dizzy heights of success.
I came away from Kay’s book with less warmth for him than when I’d started. There was a crueller edge to him in the book, and he clearly appeared to be believing some of his own hype. But the part that really nailed it was a story about a school play or something.
Kay’s on stage and starts ad-libbing and messing about, stealing the limelight and getting a few laughs, and Kay revels in it totally, as though this was brilliant and no less than he deserved. Corden tells a similar story, about messing around at his sister’s christening and becoming the centre of attention, and does discuss is attention seeking in school as well, but its told in a different way.
By messing about on stage Kay was stealing from another person, to the other kids on stage that school play was probably a big moment for them, only for them to be upstaged by someone else. Kay seems incapable of seeing it from any other point of view other than his “It was amazing!” attitude.
Corden fooling about as a four year old at a christening is different, he hasn’t deprived someone else of their chance to shine and he was a lot younger. As for his tomfoolery at school, Corden does relate a few funny stories from this time, but he also realises how disruptive and stupid a lot of it was. There’s genuine regret for some of it, and with perspective and hindsight Corden feels the need to apologise to teachers and classmates.
Its this kind of perspective that makes Corden a good narrator. There are moments where you can almost feel him cringing as he writes about some of his douchier episodes, understanding where he went wrong.
And he seems to understand why not everyone likes him. He relates the backlash that started against him and Horne, and also that he doesn’t help himself. There’s an interesting part where he discusses his nerves and insecurity, and how often he’ll put on a confident exterior to cover this, only for it to backfire and at times causing him to appear arrogant.
There’s a realisation of this failing and there seems an honest attempt to stop doing this.
The pre-fame bits are good but, for me, the books strongest section comes near the end. After Gavin & Staceyand the successes is where Corden’s book is its most fascinating, there’s a maturity in his writing that lets him be honest about events that are still only a few years ago. We can all admit to being a dick ages ago, but an extended period of twattery in the recent past is harder to face up to.
He talks candidly about becoming swept up in all the celebrity madness, starting to believe his own hype and spending too much time going to parties and drinking, ignoring his friends and family. Its a familiar story, but Corden is just a few years past this, yet he owns up to it all, clearly hating himself for some of the things he did and sorry for some of the problems he caused.
Its in this section that one of the best parts of the book is written, a painfully honest piece where Corden relates his infatuation with Lily Allen. They met and became friends, but Corden discusses openly the fact he fancied her and his belief at the time that she felt the same way. Its an awkward, almost pathetic episode, and few could blame him for omitting it from history, but Corden bravely puts it all down in the book, illustrating the reality warping effects of fame and its shortly after this he gets back on track.
The final section is extremely touching, with Corden telling the heartwarming story about meeting his missus, and of becoming a father. Also of becoming more comfortable in himself and realistic about his success.
He’s shaken off the need for attention that led him to his classroom disruption and it leaves off with him in a happy, contented frame of mind that leaves you with a warm glow.
Verdict: A well written, entertaining book with Corden proving himself to be an affable, likeable narrator unafraid to detail his own failures and faults in telling his life story. 7/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. TTFN