A few years ago, comedian Russell Brand was a burgeoning star in America, largely known for a funny supporting role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and for pissing people off with his 2008 VMAs hosting gig. His 2008 memoir, My Booky Wook, was a good introduction to the “spindly liquorice man, this sex-crazed linguistic bolt of tricks and tics and kohl-eyed winks,” a self-centered, self-mocking addict who could charm the pants off most people—often literally. In addition to being an honest reflection on addiction and self-destruction, Booky Wook was also a glimpse at British stardom.
Now Brand has crossed over. Thanks to two major upcoming films, Arthur and The Tempest, plus his wedding to singer Katy Perry, his fame has grown exponentially. His second memoir, My Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, picks up where the first one ends, but the transition is abrupt. By the end of My Booky Wook, Brand has completed rehab, and is still largely a celebrity in his own mind; at the start of Booky Wook 2, he’s bedding Kate Moss. Brand, a strong writer who sprinkled fizzy language throughout his first book like dragée, is most fun when he sums up his celebrity friends: Courtney Love is a “mad enchantress, a rasping white witch, barmy and opinionated and lion-hearted,” Juliette Lewis a “grubby sparkle of a woman; intense and pensive, crackling and sharp,” and Kristen Bell, affectionately, “Wonk-eye Bell.”
It’s ironic that Brand’s second book is subtitled This Time It’s Personal. It feels less personal than the first, as Brand is whisked along fame’s corridor. While it’s still funnier, more intelligent, and more authentically written than most celebrity autobiographies, Brand lost something between his two books, perhaps because he had less time to work on the sequel. Booky Wook 2 also feels padded, thanks to several pages’ worth of dialogue from Brand’s BBC radio show, angry letters from VMA viewers, and e-mails from Morrissey.
In My Booky Wook, Brand was merrily unapologetic about his various addictions, and in Booky Wook 2, he leads a parade of women through its pages, giving a first-hand glimpse at rock-star-level sex. But his upcoming marriage to Perry looms over the book. Even though she doesn’t appear until the last few pages, there’s a sense that Brand feels obligated to chide himself for his exploits, which occasionally feels disingenuous. Similarly, he occasionally attempts to take a sober look at wealth and fame, but again, it doesn’t feel like he had time to work out his true feelings on the matter, whereas My Booky Wook led readers on a leisurely, funny, sad tour through his ego via his verbose meanderings. However, as in his first book, Brand is an expert at aiming at himself first, like when he discusses how much tedious work making a movie can be: “When you see the end product all the pain and hard work seem worthwhile, like giving birth, right girls? Yep, that’s what I’m saying, [filmmaking’s] like childbirth. Only a lot more important obviously.”
At the end of My Booky Wook, Brand fans got an impression of what it’d be like to hang out with their favorite randy, overarticulate comedian. Booky Wook 2 is pleasurable in its own way, but lets readers know that Brand is now operating on a different plane. He may not be happy about it, but that’s how it is.