Whether you’re an Alan Cumming superfan or more like, “Who?” there is something for you to enjoy in the actor’s second memoir, Baggage: Tales From a Fully Packed Life. It is indeed fully packed with reflective writing about his extraordinary life, hard-won wisdom and plenty of Hollywood gossip.
Cumming’s fans already loved him for his work onstage in Cabaret and on-screen in everything from “The Good Wife” to the Spy Kids trilogy. But he gained the respect of the literary world, too, with his 2014 memoir, Not My Father’s Son, about his family ancestry and abusive father. Baggage picks up emotionally where Not My Father’s Son left off, as Cumming describes navigating the theater world and Hollywood, both famously brutal industries, while trying to rebuild the self-worth his father destroyed. He writes thoughtfully about the end of his first marriage (to a woman), his hookups, his love affairs, his drug use and his second marriage (to a man).
When Cumming describes his happiness with the person he is today, the reader understands it came from decades of trial and error. Celebrity memoirs can be a literary crapshoot, but Cumming is a truly gifted writer. Very few readers will be able to relate, for example, to confronting the director Bryan Singer about his drug abuse on the set of X2: X-Men United alongside people all costumed as superheroes. But in Cumming’s telling, the saga reads like any other anxiety-packed tale of work colleagues banding together to challenge the boss.
Cumming is able to pivot from sassy and self-effacing to sensitive and serious, perhaps because he embodies all those qualities himself, but what radiates the strongest is his confidence. Throughout all the stories in Baggage, he never seems like he’s trying to prove anything—but after a 40-year career, what does he really have to prove? Even if the author were not a celeb, Baggage would be a worthy read for anyone who has triumphed over a difficult childhood.