The Autobiography of Boy George (Book Review)
From the title to the cover to the content, this book intrigues. As an author I can appreciate the power of a good cover and the hook of a clever title. As one who identifies with the pain and isolation of being an outsider, I can sympathize with the heart-wrenching struggle that led to the writing of this book. From the first page to the last I was engaged in a journey that seemed sure to lead to inevitable destruction. But instead of self-annihilation, George’s journey led to the rebirth of a troubled spirit. The narrative is raw and compelling. The story a familiar one of an individual who feels different from his friends and family but finds the courage to become unique.
At times I got lost in the endless string of names and people that came in and out of George’s life. It was amazing how one name flowed into a different one from one paragraph to another and yet I was able to keep on reading. More so, I wanted to keep reading to see where this journey would end. The endless names were only an external indicator of the confusion and inconsistency in George’s life, of the constant search for love and friendship, for acceptance—even if he had to buy it. People came and went. Friends changed loyalties. Lovers were inconsistent. And through it all, George remained on the edge of himself, still an outsider, forbidden by fame to be honest about who he really was. From the drama to the drugs, his was a life out of control.
The fun part of reading this book was that I could read it side by side with You Tube and the Internet to visualize what I was reading. The narrative was vivid and painted a colorful canvas, but to be able to search the internet and see a video of the Top of the Pops performance of “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” while watching drummer Jon Moss beat out the rhythm to a song written about him was intriguing. To see George stoned was horrifying, to see him happy gratifying. His story became real both through his words and his videos. And unlike in some of the interviews, where he was not being honest, in this book Boy George did finally “take it like a man.” In many unflattering passages, he assumed responsibility for his arrogance, his self-centeredness, and his outsized ego. I could feel the pain of his shame, the sting of media cruelty, the blows to his self-esteem when the press called him Junkie George or a fat cow, relentlessly focusing on his weight losses and gains in a way that would have made a weaker man (or woman) fold under the pressure.
His struggles were extreme, but painfully real. I admire George for having the courage to live his life on his terms. But more importantly, I admire the strength he found to fight his demons and struggle his way back to a better place. TAKE IT LIKE A MAN is a fascinating story about an outsider gone mainstream and then his journey back home to the unique individual he was meant to be.