book review: This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

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THIS WILL ONLY HURT A LITTLE by Busy Philipps
★★★☆☆
Touchstone, 2018

 

I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this book. I never reach for celebrity memoirs, less out of literary snobbery and more because the celebrities I’m invested in do not usually write memoirs. But I am a fan of Busy Philipps so I thought why not, let’s give it a try.

Busy states early on in her book that she’s a natural-born storyteller, that she knows when to embellish and when to omit details to keep her audience compelled, and I have to agree. What this book lacks (which I’ll get to in a moment), she makes up for with an immense skill at honing in on what exactly makes an anecdote worth sharing. Whether it was dislocating her knee after being trampled at a school concert by eighth grade boys moshing to Nirvana, or confronting the creator of Modern Family years after he made a rude comment about Busy winning a Critics Choice Award for Cougar Town, she knows how to keep her reader hooked. As I’ve talked about before, I’m not the best audiobook listener, but I don’t think my mind wandered once while listening to this, and I managed to finish it in a week (which is probably a record for me with audiobooks). Even the least exciting of anecdotes were far from boring, because Busy manages to convince you that the stakes are always much, much higher than they actually are (with an occasional tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that maybe she was a bit melodramatic given the circumstances, but in the moment the minor calamity did feel like the end of the world).

But the introspection didn’t go much further than that, which is my biggest issue with this book. The writing itself wasn’t great but I assume that’s par for the course with this kind of memoir, so I won’t dwell on that. What bothered me more was the constant self-absorption and how it was never met with adequate reflection. Though she certainly faced hardships and I don’t want to dismiss that, for the most part Busy Philipps has lived a rather privileged life, which she really only acknowledges once toward the end of the book, when she wonders why she’s dreading going on a paid Disney cruise that her mother arranged when so many people would kill for that opportunity. There’s a weird kind of dissonance between the persona that Busy has crafted on Instagram (being down to earth and relatable) and the extravagant life that she lives in Hollywood, and it’s never really addressed. I mean, of course celebrities aren’t our friends, of course the lives of the rich and famous are never going to be perfect reflections of our own; it’s just the lack of awareness of that fact throughout this memoir that grated. I don’t think for a second that Busy is ungrateful for the life she leads, but I do think her gratitude is something that never fully translated to this text.

Ultimately I’d really only recommend this one to fans of Busy, or to anyone who really enjoys celebrity memoirs in general. I don’t see this book winning Busy many fans who hadn’t already been familiar with her work and her persona, but for those of us who enjoy her, it certainly didn’t fail to entertain. It just… didn’t do much else. And though I consistently enjoyed it, I ended it feeling vaguely dissatisfied as its anecdotal nature left many questions unanswered (did Busy stay close to Michelle after Heath’s death, how is her relationship with Marc after counseling, did Busy look back on her teenage abortion when she was pregnant with her daughters, how did the people and the stories she talked about early on come to shape her later in life). But it was a fun, entertaining read, and sometimes that’s all you can ask of a book. 3.5 stars

4 thoughts on “book review: This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

  1. I’ve seen her memoir but I actually don’t know who she is! For some reason I had the impression it was more comedic than it sounds like it is. I also don’t really gravitate towards celebrity memoirs unless it’s someone I super-like, but it’s definitely not all bad if it’s at least entertaining!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahh you didn’t watch Freaks and Geeks? I loved that show SO much! I haven’t seen Busy in a whole lot of other things, but I have a lingering fondness for her from that alone. It’s definitely comedic at times (and when it is it’s laugh-out-loud-funny, which is nice), but it’s also a very earnest tell-all that gets pretty heavy. Notably, Busy talks about being raped by her boyfriend when she was 14, having an abortion at 15, and her struggles with mental illness and post-partum depression. For the most part she does a good job at balancing the light and the heavy, I just wish she had gone a bit deeper with the insights at times.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I’ve never seen it! I know it had a big fan base, though. I think I assumed she was a comedian since so many of the celebrity memoirs, especially lately, seem to be from comedians. It does sound really heavy, wow…but I can imagine disappointing that it’s not more insightful despite tackling that kind of subject matter. Laugh-out-loud-funny is so hard to come by though, that makes it seem worthwhile, at least!

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