Reason for reading: Blog tour, known writer (although not known for books), guilty-pleasure genre
Opening lines: “It was never my intention to write an autobiography. The very notion made me queasy. You see them congesting the bookshop shelves at Christmas. Rows of needy smiles, sad clowns and serious eyes, proclaiming faux-modest life stories, with titles such as This Is Me, or Why Me?, or Me, Me, Me.”*
Book description: Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: actor, comedian, writer and self-proclaimed supergeek Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having landed on the U.S. movie scene in the surprise cult hit Shaun of the Dead, his enduring appeal and rise to movie star with a dedicated following has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronic, but mostly just plain great.
From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with science fiction, his enduring friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up comedy which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his twelve-year-old classmates, Simon has always had a severe and dangerous case of the funnies.
Whether recounting his experience working as a lifeguard at the city pool, going to Comic-Con for the first time and confessing to Carrie Fisher that he used to kiss her picture every night before he went to sleep, or meeting and working with heroes that include Peter Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, Pegg offers a hilarious look at the journey to becoming an international superstar, dotted with a cast of memorable characters.
Comments: Those opening lines quoted above are an accurate description of the author’s feelings. When Simon Pegg was offered the opportunity to write his first book, he really hoped to write fiction about a suave, handsome superhero (named “Simon Pegg”) and his robotic butler/sidekick, and was disappointed that his publisher wanted something more real and personal. But he managed to get the book he wanted, too. The opening lines quoted above aren’t actually the lines that open the book. The real opening lines of this book are from the first installment of “Simon Pegg’s” adventures, and that story continues at intervals throughout Simon Pegg’s memoir. It’s a fun device that showcases the work Pegg is best known for.
I’ve enjoyed Simon Pegg’s performances in movies like Hot Fuzz, Paul, and Star Trek, and I knew he’d been involved in creating and writing a lot of the work he’s done. I also knew, largely via his Twitter feed (my husband’s a huge fan), that he was One Of Us – a proud card-carrying nerd. Other than that, I didn’t know much about him before I read this.
The nonfiction portions of Pegg’s book are more traditional autobiography than what we recognize as “memoir” these days, although they’re not presented in a strictly linear chronology and they’re mixed with observations and critiques of nerd-culture touchstones, most notably the Star Wars movies. As a graduate of drama school and a university theatre program, Pegg’s reflections on the production aspects of popular entertainment are well-thought-out and informed; I got the impression he’d shared long, intricate discussions with like-minded friends on some of the topics he analyzes here, as nerds tend to do. Pegg clearly enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce about his early life and formative experiences; his affection for those who shaped his path – and those who continue to influence it – comes across. He’s less chatty and more ” just the facts” when it comes to the more recent stages of his career, and seems to know that when his stories begin to verge on name-dropping, it’s time to wrap it up (although he does seem to retain genuine wonder at some of the names his own success has afforded him the opportunity to drop).
I call celebrity memoir my “guilty-pleasure genre,” but it’s much more pleasure and much less guilt when one of the things the celebrity in question is known for is writing (hey, scripts are writing too). Nerd Do Well is humorous and engaging throughout, occasionally poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny in spots; as nerds go, Simon Pegg has done well indeed. And I hope he’ll get the chance to continue writing the adventures of “Simon Pegg” and Canterbury the robotic butler; I’d definitely see that movie.