I've gone and crammed Russell Brand's books -- plural, there are two now, which I thought was either a great sign or a really horrible one -- into my head, on the basis that I was bored and already at the library. I have a lot of Thoughts on the stuff in them, most of which are probably important solely to me, which I will type out one of these days, when I'm not standing in the Dollar Tree trying to figure out if buying clearance wrapping paper solely to keep decorating the rat cage is completely insane, or merely charmingly whimsical.

One thing I inevitably get asked when I talk about other people's autobios is, "Do you think they're telling the truth?" And there are actually two different answers to that, on two different communicative levels.

Specifically about Brand's book, yeah, I think he generally is. He's incredibly flippant and probably rather hyperbolic, but it's a consistent kind of flippancy and hyperbole. Doing enough research and revising and just plain tedious thinking things through logically to fake being the person he's writing down on the page would be tantamount to homework. I figured even before I read it that his relationship with formal schooling was probably fifteen second bursts of unmitigated genius punctuating long weeks of mandatory after-school detention, to which he did not go. Just from watching him on stage, I can pretty much tell you that Brand would never. It would be suspiciously like work. Tougher to tell how congruent his view of events was with anyone else's, but I very much doubt that he's being consciously deceptive.

There's also a fair amount of external evidence that the book is at least not entirely rubbish. A lot of Brand's friends A) are also in showbiz, and B) have equally big mouths. The consensus among people who know him seems to be that he's not being inaccurate in the bits they can personally check. Odds are pretty high that he's not being inaccurate in the other bits, either. The internal language fweeper says that the book is not ghostwritten -- that is, it matches his speech, down to dropping out of standard English and into a load of dialectical Essex when he wants to make a particularly sarcastic point -- although it does mercifully have the advantage of involving an editor that is not Russell Brand, and who probably spent the better part of the drafting process ruthlessly pruning tangent after tangent after fucking tangent.

In point of fact, I generally start out assuming people are telling the truth, until I get some kind of information that suggests otherwise. I'm not entirely sure why, but I run into a lot of people who assume that since I have a decent amount of faith in my ability to read people and social cues, I must start out every interaction tabula rasa, and build up my evidence for truth-truthiness-outright lying from zero every time. I don't. Which is fortunate, because good God that would be a terrible, time-consuming, paranoid plan. "This person is not bothering to lie to me," is my null hypothesis most of the time, and I adjust my idea of the odds that this is true on the basis of where I am, what they say and do, what they want from me, and what I've seen in other people that this new person reminds me of. Orders of magnitude faster that way, believe me.

The other answer is that it doesn't actually matter if he's lying, because lies also carry information. An autobiography is the end result of the author rummaging through their brain and splatting a selection of the contents onto a piece of paper. Even if every single word in the thing is a damned lie, right down to 'a', 'and' and 'the', what you write down as your life story tells me how you want me to see you. You may spin a yarn about fleecing war widows of their last remaining savings in a tone that says you think you're a cheeky little bastard, and what I may get out of it is that you are in fact a gaping asshole, but in either case I know that you think that story is an appropriate one to tell to someone who wants to know more about you. Crazy, selfish, delusional human beings make up crazy, selfish, delusional lies about themselves, because the whole "crazy, selfish, delusional" thing means kinda by definition that they really have no idea how someone who was not a childish loon would behave in whatever circumstances they've invented.

If you're at all curious about Brand, the first one would probably be worth a read, if for no other reason than the text makes it blatantly obvious that his whole pingy, sproingy, ADHD brain is hyperlinked half to death. Being as it is about his childhood and he grew up in England, Brand's semi-directed stream of consciousness is littered with passing references to things that would be familiar to UK readers, but completely devoid of meaning or context to people in the US. Rather than go through and revise the shit out of everything for an American edition, Brand has elected to write probably a quarter to a third again the length of the actual book in the form of long, involved, and usually very snarky explanatory footnotes. He doesn't get two pages in before he has to explain what a "page three girl" is, and it pretty much wallops downhill from there.

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