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BOOK REVIEW: You’re on an Airplane – A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey

| 25 January 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: You’re on an Airplane – A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey

Virago
July 2018
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / Biographies & True Stories

50% Rocking

Parker Posey puts the ‘me’ into memoir. In her debut book, You’re on an Airplane, the indie actress uses the conceit that she and the reader are sitting side-by-side on a flight. It’s a novel and interesting idea in theory, but in practice this makes for one self-absorbed and disorienting tale.

I got interested in acting because I was born into it—born into turbulence. It’s kind of simple: I’m a character actor because I come from a family of characters. When people ask if anyone in my family is an actor, I say all of them. They’re performative people. They’ll star somewhat in this, in the way Mother and Father star in our lives, constantly—as constant as the northern star—but I’ll take the lead.

The plane-ride shtick really only applies to the opening and closing chapters. In these, Posey includes little asides about the destination and wanting a cup of coffee. She is accompanied by Grace, an assistance dog and we learn early on that she likes wearing turbans. She even describes tying one onto your head. Let’s just say, this self-mythologising memoir is an uneven one containing some rather useless information. It might be useful if we needed to create a dating profile for Posey, but you don’t really get a sense of her true self.

Headwear feels right, especially after you reach your mid-forties and start to see the older person you’ll become. Would you like a brush? Eye drops? Oh my God, that feels good. Care to slather your face with moisturizer? You have pretty hair, young lady. Don’t fall asleep; I want you to listen. Turbans apply to the men out there as well, who will become older ladies as they soften with age.

This book is framed around a fictional conversation except that this is a one-sided chat and Posey is doing all of the talking. This means that the prose is quite light and conversational in tone, even if the jokes often fall short. At its best it can make for a fun and engaging reading by a woman with a unique voice. But at its worst, this stream-of-consciousness can be like hearing about someone else’s dream, because it’s always far more fascinating to the dreamer than the person listening. This book is also full of one-too-many unfinished thoughts and tangents. This is acceptable in speech but can be frustrating to read. In fact, this title might actually work better as an audiobook because then you could feel like you are having a real heart-to-heart.

I had a “movie mother” in the late, great Nora Ephron. She sent me an email a few months before she left the planet that I’ve memorized and kept close to my heart: “Dear Parker, I love watching your life from the middle distance. No one has a career like yours, and although I understand it makes for moments that have to feel less than secure, it also means you have so many things you would never have done if your life were more conventional. Love, your mother.” She’d tell me that there wasn’t a conventional bone in my body.

Fans of Posey’s will be keen to know more about this actor’s life story. Those who read celebrity memoirs will also be keen to learn more about her work. We learn a little of her childhood memories and the fact that she was raised in the South as a Catholic. She’s the younger half of a set of fraternal twins. Her father has a wicked sense of humour and this could be where Posey gets her own quirky eccentricities:

I also started doing this thing when I drove around, that is completely obnoxious or funny, depending on who you are and how you feel: I’d roll down my window, get a person’s attention on the sidewalk or crossing the street, and call out, “Excuse me! Are you vegan?!” Or I got the attention of someone in a car at a stop sign and said casually (but a little too loud), “I AM A VEGAN.” This was more fun in the passenger seat, when I’d get to hang out of the car. It was good clean fun—unlike veganism, which is hard work.
I get this from my parents—doing silly, unexpected stuff.

Some readers may be expecting Posey to tell-all about her experiences on film sets like Dazed & Confused and Party Girl. They are likely to be disappointed as are fans of Josie and the Pussycats. Posey does, however, mention working with Woody Allen and Louis C.K. She is not critical of either man and some readers may take issue with her positive commentary in light of the misconduct allegations.

There are moments where this memoir feels like Homer Simpson’s attempts at writing a restaurant review. Posey is running through a personal anecdote one minute only to follow this up with detailed ramblings another. She describes things like yoga, pottery, turbans, recipes, and other colourful pieces of unnecessary information. There are also illustrations and photos, which make this look more like her own personal scrapbook. At times this is too much and detracts from proceedings; it also prevents this from feeling like a cohesive book.

Let’s take a break and look at the SkyMall catalog; it’s fun to look at all the weird home stuff you never really see in people’s homes. There should be a word for the fear of opening one’s own mail. There should also be a phrase besides “excuse me” for when someone is standing in front of the very thing you want—it should be something funny that would make you both laugh. These solar-panel footprints that light up at night in your backyard are funny. I’ll order these for my funeral. If you want me again, look for me above my solar panel footprints.

One’s enjoyment of You’re on an Airplane really hinges on whether you like Posey’s company. If you’re a fan, then you should enjoy this light-hearted and throwaway banter. Those who aren’t her admirers but don’t mind a quirky and flighty gypsy-like artist will find there is also a little something here. For the rest, remember there’s always alcohol and headphones.

Natalie Salvo

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at: http://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com

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