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Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Always Something

***** It's Always Something by Gilda Radner. Autobiography.

I almost never read biographies, and I stay far away from books that I know will make me cry, but when I saw this on Half.com from the seller I was buying other books from (I always look at the sellers' other offerings to take advantage of the reduced shipping costs), I just had to buy it. I've loved Gilda Radner from the beginning of Saturday Night Live. (yes, I'm that old)

The book mostly chronicles her battle with ovarian cancer (a losing one, as it turns out--she finished the book shortly before her death), and her romance with Gene Wilder. It's actually nicely organized, with stories about her childhood, early performing days, SNL, and movies tucked in among a chronological story of the last 5 or 6 years of her life.

I was worried about reading it, and it is painful to read in parts, particularly the hopeful parts, where you know she doesn't make it. But at the same time, it's got her voice through the whole thing, and it's irresistible.

She doesn't sugarcoat or hold back--from her clinginess nearly keeping Gene from marrying her, to the devastation of chemotherapy, to her obsessions with various treatments. But it's not all gloom and doom. She decided to use her comedy to cope, and there are also stories in there about the goofy ways she'd try to entertain the staff and other patients when she was in the hospital, and how she'd go around telling people "I used to be Gilda Radner."

In other words, you see her as a complete person, warts and all.

It made me think, obviously, about how devastating a disease this is, and how heartbreaking to go from a newlywed trying to conceive to cancer patient in the blink of an eye. It also made me think about the indomitability of the human spirit, and reminded me that even when your life is sucking horribly, you can get some comfort when you give it by reaching out to other people.

It wasn't a comfortable book to read, but I'm very glad I read it.

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