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American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures Of An Unlikely Patriot

Review

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures Of An Unlikely Patriot

If you've ever seen or heard Craig Ferguson, one thing is
painfully clear immediately: aside from him being incredibly funny,
he isn't from around here. Yes, Ferguson is from Scotland, as his
very thick accent illustrates. Yet from a very early age, a young
Ferguson made it his goal to move to America. Happily, for him and
for us, he became an American citizen in early 2008. And although
this is joyous news, his road getting here was full of anything but
laughs.

It would be very easy for Ferguson to simply put out a laughing
book, highlighting the funny bits of his journey from gray and
dreary Cumbernauld, Scotland, to the glittering flashbulbs of the
paparazzi in sunny Los Angeles. To be sure, there are moments in
AMERICAN ON PURPOSE that are laugh-out-loud funny, but ultimately
he refuses to gloss over his failures. And in the process of
opening himself up so honestly, he shows the spirit of perseverance
and dedication required to get through his often challenging
life.

Beginning with his tough childhood, doing whatever it took not
to get beat up in his rough and tumble school, he found an outlet
in punk rock as a drummer. He also found a release from continued
failures in numerous liquor bottles and drug stashes. But a trip to
New York City in the ’70s with his father opened his eyes to
the larger world, and at that moment he realized that he wanted to
be an American. Right then and there, he promised his father that
one day America would be his home.

Back in Scotland, however, the drinking and the drug usage were
taking their toll, leaving a swath of broken hearts and failed
ventures in his wake. It would all culminate on a Christmas Day
decision to end his life after he was stranded with no way home and
no prospects of which to speak. Ironically, it would be a bartender
offering a glass of sherry for the holiday that saved his life by
getting him so drunk that he forgot to kill himself.

Ferguson is honest about the destructive nature of his ways in
those tough days, and he takes the brunt of the blame square on the
nose. It would be easy for him to brush aside the situations in the
retelling, but he makes it very clear that these were his choices,
his cravings and his needs. It was his conscious decision to
perform those deeds no matter whom he hurt along the way. This part
of Ferguson’s story is a frank discussion of addiction and
dependency, and artfully shows the pitfalls of leading such a
life.

Thankfully, Ferguson finally cleans up and makes it big in the
United States, going from hit television series “The Drew
Carey Show” to succeeding comedian Craig Kilborn as the host
of “The Late Late Show.” It was on this program that he
eulogized each of his parents after they passed away, and it was in
those heartfelt and touching moments that the real Craig Ferguson
emerged. He recounts the loss of his parents in the book, and the
closing chapter about the death of his mother is perhaps the most
poignant of all. Within those pages (tinged with grief over his
loss), Ferguson realizes that, in his quest to be American, he was
losing his grip on what it meant to be Scottish. And it is at this
point that he determines he is and rightfully must be both.

AMERICAN ON PURPOSE is an astoundingly good book by perhaps the
funniest talk show host on television. And although Ferguson is
funny, the book’s narrative is no joke; he knows how to
write. His style is very conversational and open, and that helps
the reader to easily delve into it. The book will surprise you with
its honesty, sadden you with its destructive pattern of behavior,
and, as Ferguson always does, make you laugh.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on December 22, 2010

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures Of An Unlikely Patriot
by Craig Ferguson

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2010
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: It Books
  • ISBN-10: 0061998494
  • ISBN-13: 9780061998492