Is it stupid to say that I wanted to read this book solely because I wanted to hear a lot of Clifford talk? And while there certainly were a couple little juicy Clifford tidbits that made me smile (four, to be exact), I’m so glad I picked up this book. I can only label it with one word. AMAZING. I don’t know if it’s due to his writing, the stories in it or the palpable sense that Martin Short seems like the most genuine human being alive, but it’s, by far, the best book I’ve read in a very long time.
Remember how I told you about the New Words document that I keep? I should let you know that I wrote down a total of eighteen new words that I learned from this book. I’m not sure if that tells you that Martin Short is an especially learned man or that perhaps I’m an absolute dolt. In any case, here were my very favourite parts of the book.
- "My mind has always worked systematically to begin with. For example, I still operate according to the school-year calendar, where September heralds a new start and May/June the conclusion of another grade; as I write this, in the spring of 2014, I am finishing up what I think of as Grade 59."
- I loved the chapter detailing his personal mantra of sorts – what he calls his "Nine Categories" – it’s essentially his "course load of life". This line especially I liked, "Everything else in life unravels if you’re not perpetuating your own survival. You have to take care of yourself." (Also, I don’t want to just tell you what the nine categories are because you should be exiting your home immediately to go buy this book so you can find out the categories yourself.)
- Hearing him describe his first (and only) standup experience with the phrase "crescendoing boos" made me really laugh.
- When he described someone as "facially uninteresting".
- "Thank heavens for Nan’s wise words, which forever echoed in my head: "If I ever find out that you’ve cheated on me, I won’t say anything during the day, but at night, when you are asleep, so help me God, I will take an empty wine bottle and smash it over your head.""
- The chapter about his brother who passed away at a young age is so moving.
- When talking about a review of Clifford: "Roger Ebert memorably wrote of it, "I’d love to hear a symposium of veteran producers, marketing guys, and exhibitors discuss this film. It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe. The movie is so odd, it’s almost worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.""
- I loved hearing about how much Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Taylor loved Clifford as much as any normal, human person should. Nicholas Cage told him that he "broke his VCR watching it" because he "watched that dining room scene" –look at me like a human boy!— "twenty-five times in a row, and rewound it so much that the machine jammed and the tape broke."
- The story in which him and his wife accidentally assume someone’s name is Bumpkiss and proceed to call this man ‘Bumpkiss’ for about twenty minutes made me laugh so much.
- He offers this advice he got from Victor Garber about what you should immediately do if you find yourself ever too high: "Victor went into Gilda’s kitchen and brought back a little dish of honey and a Coca-Cola. Victor is a diabetic. "You’re having the same reaction to the pot that a diabetic has from a blood-sugar crash," he told me gently. "Everything’s going to be fine. Here, take this." He fed me a spoonful of honey like I was a sick child. Then he had me drink the Coke. And he was totally right. I was back to normal within minutes."
- I don’t know quite how to put this, but the way in which he speaks about his wife Nancy (Nan) is so intimate and revealing – I couldn’t get enough. The way he describes her, "She made your heart beat like a little distant jungle drum," makes the reader feel sort of in on their love or something. I feel like this could be a memoir of him and Nan. He loves her so much that it SEEPS through the page. The final few chapters detailing her battle with cancer and the surrounding years of that time had me literally sobbing.
- Describing life without his wife: "We were, as a couple, like a big 747 jet plane, powered by two engines. But now one engine is out. Nevertheless, the plane is still filled with passengers, and there’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of lives still to influence. So the plane must continue to fly with one engine. It travels onward, but with a bit more effort and struggle, and with no time to flirt with the stewardess or get a coffee."
- After his wife died, people would call and give him advice on how to cope with such a loss: "Mike Nichols also called, urging me to "just keep the conversation going." This was valuable wisdom, because the constant banter I maintained with Nancy was like oxygen to me, and to suddenly no longer have it in my life seemed incomprehensible – and, in bad moments, suffocating."
- "After Nancy died, I read a 1910 sermon by the Oxford theologian Henry Scott Holland that has evolved over time into a funeral prayer. It begins:
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as what it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone. Laugh as we always laughed at the littles jokes we enjoyed together."
- I was going to write out the final paragraph here because it was one of my favourites parts as well, but I’m not sure it’ll mean as much to you as it did to me since I read the thing in full and you did not (yet).
Needless to say, this man is one of the most talented people alive today and I’m left completely speechless at how incredible this book was to read. (Well, I guess not really speechless since this is a pretty lengthy post, but you know what I mean.) Martin Short, you are perfect.