Sunday, June 19, 2011
Get Your Read On: Good Stuff by Jennifer Grant
Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant
by Jennifer Grant
Knopf (Random House)
Happy Father's Day!
Good Stuff is unlike any other book you will ever come across. Reading it is a very intimate experience, one you share with the author. Jennifer Grant has given the public a peek into the love between a father and his only child. The father, Cary Grant, just happens to be one of the most famous, well-known and adored actors ever to have lived. We come to the book with a false sense of familiarity with Cary Grant only to discover that we didn't know about this part of his life at all.
Jennifer Grant reminisces about the first 20 years of her life; the years when her father was alive. Although the book goes back and forth through time freely, the reader never gets lost. Each chapter has a theme which anchors it and the progression of the book feels chronological even when it isn't. The author tried to capture the "essence of Dad's soul" when writing this book. It's not minute-by-minute account of 20 years past rather a way to portray her father the way she knew him. The title, Good Stuff, refers to something Cary Grant would say alot. The author says, "Dad used the expression 'good stuff' to declare happiness or, as one of his friends put it, he said it when please with the nature of things." The Cary Grant in this book is very happy to have finally had a child, one he could dote upon, teach, and most importantly love. You get the sense that he is scared of death because he doesn't want to miss those precious moments of his life. He didn't want to miss the good stuff.
Jennifer Grant is intelligent, observant and thoughtful and shares the most wonderful memories of her dad. At first I thought she came off a bit snooty, however, as I continued to read the book I realized that this is a woman who truly adored, loved and appreciated her father. She doesn't read any biographies about him. Before he passed away, Cary Grant warned his daughter that after his death people would say things about him. And to keep in mind what she knows about him now and what he's told her. He wanted her to remember him as he was, not as others will portray him to be. And that's exactly what she did in this book. While she does address some of the controversial topics of his life, including his sexuality (this surprised me!), she does stay true to her real memory of her dad.
The book is wider than your normal biography or memoir. It was purposefully made to look like a photo album or scrapbook. The pages are rough front which gives the book a sort of homemade feel. There are delightful pictures of father and daughter as well as other images that are so personal and intimate it feels like we are getting a peek into the Grant family's treasure trove. Jennifer Grant also included telegrams, typed notes, hand-written scribbles, drawings and written transcripts of audio recordings. She recounts conversations, events, explains some of the pictures.
What really touched me about this book is how much Cary Grant loved his daughter. He was so happy to have a child, he treasured every moment with her and kept a huge amount of mementos which he stored in a vault. The love, his love, is what will move you to tears when you read this book. And I implore that you do.
Full Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book through Random House.
Here is an interview (she doesn't do many of these) with Jennifer Grant and ABC.