Not My Father's Son: A Memoir
A quote from actor Alan Cumming's memoir, NOT MY FATHER'S SON, states: “Our family has always been one of secrets, of silence, of holding things in.”
His name may not be instantly recognizable, but his face most certainly is. Maybe you know him from Broadway in Tony Award-winning roles like the Emcee in “Cabaret” or from such film work as portraying Nightcrawler in X-Men 2 or the coy hotel clerk who flirts with Tom Cruise in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. If those don't ring a bell, then he most certainly will be familiar for his role as the silver-tongued Eli Gold on the CBS hit drama “The Good Wife.”
Even with all of these credentials, NOT MY FATHER'S SON is not an overview of Alan’s acting history. Rather, it is a far more personal work that he has long wanted to share. This memoir gives readers the opportunity to know the real Alan Cumming and find out what has both driven and haunted him throughout his life.
"This is a deeply moving piece that will shed light on one of our finest actors and allow readers inside the locked door that has been Alan Cumming's past."
Like many people, Alan had a complicated relationship with his family, particularly his father. Before jumping to conclusions, let me state that the tension between Alan and his father, Alex “Ali” Cumming, was not over the realization of Alan's sexual preference or lifestyle. Their issues started almost as far back as Alan can remember, the early part of childhood.
Alan's older brother, Tom, six years his senior, was able to escape their father's wrath during Alan's formative years because he had a job to go to every day. That left Alan behind to deal with a man whose unpredictable rage could cause him to pounce at any time. The book opens with a horrible memory of Alex grabbing young Alan, taking him to the woodshed and shearing off all his hair. This was done in such rough fashion that the boy was left bewildered and ashamed as blood ran down the back of his neck.
There are countless stories like this that both scarred and shaped Alan's psyche. However, the book takes a turn when a rumor that Alan may not have been Alex's son comes to light. Allegedly, Alan's mum had a brief encounter with another man, and nine months later Alan came along. Could this have been the impetus for the rough and violent treatment to which Alex had subjected Alan all those many years?
While dealing with that identity issue and having escaped his homestead through the world of drama and art, a more mature Alan begins to take on another family issue. There always had been a mystery surrounding the passing of his maternal grandfather, Tommy Darling, a decorated WWII veteran whose death had been hushed up. As Alan delves into this puzzle, he learns the truth that his family would never admit. He also is forced to confront his father one final time, with more revelations on their relationship divulged.
NOT MY FATHER'S SON is the story of a man forced to live his life backwards. Having had to become mature at such an early age, his escapism into the world of drama and an alternative lifestyle allowed Alan to have the childhood that was stolen from him. This is a deeply moving piece that will shed light on one of our finest actors and allow readers inside the locked door that has been Alan Cumming's past.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 24, 2014