Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Tracy Morgan's "I Am The New Black"

WHAT: Collection of stories in book form, very of-the-moment
GOOD IF YOU LIKED: Tracy Morgan's career thus far
WHERE TO FIND IT: Throw a rock, you'll find it
PUBLISHER: Spiegel & Grau, 224 pages
BY: Tracy Morgan with Anthony Bozza

I Am The New Black is, in effect, less an autobiography and more of an ongoing talk show transcript. Covering the comic's personal life and vast career, which includes SNL and 30 Rock, you get a really strong feeling of what Morgan's life is like. Basically, the story of his life is this: Come from nothing. Become something. Succeed wildly. Fail. Repeat.

The book's writing is very much in the voice of Morgan, with allusions to robots and other craziness, which really does prove that the writers on 30 Rock aren't kidding when they say they follow Tracy around for a day to come up with episode ideas. The man's a factory of strangeness, and is clearly some sort of manic genius.

At a very breezy 200+ pages with pictures and illustrations, the book goes by in a flash. It feels like it could almost have been posted via Twitter, in that there are a number of brief anecdotes that all go by quite quickly. Also like Twitter, this book is very now-- there are references to real-world events, which season of 30 Rock just finished, and so on, making this book already feel a little dated. You can pinpoint when certain sections were drafted, which is really all the more reason to read it now if you're going to at all.

There's not a lot here that feels like some amazing revelation-- if anything, it shows that his affable, eccentric persona on TV is pretty much spot-on. Stories about his days in sports, his upbringing, and why you need to move out of a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night after achieving success ring true, as do the many stories of his early TV gigs. Particularly engaging are the tales of his first attempts on the stage, succeeding one week and then bombing the next because he trotted out new, untested material that the audience didn't seem to go for.

Like many books about the business, there's a clear journey here, although it seems each chapter is pretty scattered. It starts off being about one thing, than jumps into his personal life or a friend or something else entirely. With the numerous references to his drinking and partying, plus the health-related danger of an alcohol monitoring bracelet, you're likely to learn some interesting trivia if nothing else. Assuming, of course, you don't have to wear one of the bracelets yourself.

If you need something to read on the plane, this is a great and fast read. Just be sure to read it sooner than later, as the narrative was clearly meant to be read during 2009. In 2010 it's going to feel like it came from a time capsule.

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