No one can deny that Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can was released at the perfect time for maximum exposure; with Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival premiering in the same month, every fan of the show was eager for more. More episodes, more behind-the-scenes, more Lorelai Gilmore. (In fact my one critique of the book would be I would have liked a little more!) But that is what this is – it’s a funny, light-hearted, and, at times, heart-warming memoir of the woman behind Lorelai Gilmore, Lauren Graham. If you like Lauren, you will like this memoir, which seems like an obvious thing to say but let’s just establish that now. If you don’t already like her, I wouldn’t say this is ground-breaking and will change your mind. It’s for fans of Lauren, fans of Gilmore Girls, and (I presume) fans of Parenthood, though I still haven’t got round to watching that yet. Although this book reminded me of that fact, it principally just reinforced why I love Gilmore Girls so much.
“Because who wants to Fast Forward anyway? You might miss some of the good parts.”
Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between does exactly what it says on the tin – the book, penned by Graham herself, tells of her experiences filming Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and little mentions of other projects in Hollywood. She recounts her childhood, growing up unconventionally and awkwardly, and trying to “make it” as a young actress. All of it is told in Lauren’s own witty voice and, as the book’s dust jacket claims, “this book is like a cosy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories”. It’s not stuffy or formal by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just a woman sharing her life and love experiences in a fairly light-hearted and down-to-earth way, only to wallop you in the feels when she begins to discuss, very honestly, the vulnerability she felt as an aspiring actress vying for a role only to realise that the script’s nudity was not something she felt ok with doing. Or, when she talks about the slightly condescending assumption made by some parties that someone else must have helped her with (cough wrote for her cough) her first novel, Someday Someday Maybe, because of course she was just an airhead actress and couldn’t possibly have penned something all by herself – ouch, Lauren, your recollection of your conversation with that sexist reporter just hit me in the gut.
“As my friend Oliver Platt used to say to me about hopes and dreams I’d share with him: ‘It’s coming, just not on your time frame.’ “
Going into this book, I knew I was generally a modest fan of Lauren, I mean I adore Gilmore Girls so naturally I would be a fan of pretty much anyone and everyone to ever inhabit Stars Hollow, but aside from watching the show and seeing her on Ellen a couple of times, I truthfully didn’t know much about Lauren Graham’s life or career at all. And the sections of the memoir I really enjoyed were her accounts of the weird and wacky thing she did as an aspiring actress, all of which are told with plenty of self-awareness to understand that, hey, not everyone reading this will be in The Business and, at that point, neither was she. Because of this self-awareness, these chapters are unfalteringly endearing and strangely relatable, even for someone like me who has never held any sort of theatrical or dramatic aspirations. Ok, so I don’t know what it feels like to be in a production of Guys and Dolls, but I do know what it feels like to mispronounce a word in class, much to the amusement of the teacher, the hilarity of your classmates, and the utter mortification of yourself.
And sometimes, sometimes, Talking As Fast As I Can is just so on the money but told in that flippantly witty fashion that makes you think ‘hahaha… ha… oh, wait, shit, she’s not wrong’. For example, take Lauren’s observation re: mobile phones:
“Even so, there’s a checked-out, drugged sort of look we get when on our phones that’s different from the look we get when reading a book, or even just staring into space. I get that look too, and when I catch my own reflection, it gives me a chill. It’s like Gollum’s face just before he drops his Precious in the water.”
It’s said in a humorous way – and a good Gollum reference is always a crowd-pleaser – but since reading this book I have caught a glimpse of my reflection in the train window on an evening and thought how unsettling that spaced-out look is. Thanks, Lauren. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not of the school of thought where I think mobile phones are the devil because, one, they’re not, and, two, global communication is possible through that tiny smartphone you hold in your hand – that’s astounding. But it’s always mildly worrying, because we do put so much of our time and attention into that tiny screen, and, yes, maybe we’re reading books on the Kindle app or listening to the news via the BBC app, but we’re still zoned out and cut off from the now, from the present moment. That’s what Lauren Graham does well – she has both relatable and insightful things to say but by conveying them mid-sentence about an appearance on Ellen, she kind of sideswipes you unexpectedly, and I really liked that about this memoir.
“For a very long time I worked and worked and worked, and then I looked up one day and all my friends were married with children. These married-with-children people were still my friends, but they’d become part of a community I wasn’t in, a club I didn’t belong to.
Socially, their lives had completely changed, and they were busy. Their attention had turned to carpools and birthday parties and school tuition, and I was playing catch-up: ‘Wait, so we don’t have game night anymore? You guys, who’s free for dinner Saturday? Oh, absolutely no one?’ “
If you’re mostly here for the Gilmore Girls insights, not to worry, Lauren has you covered. She marathon watched all seven seasons in preparation for writing that chapter of the book so, as she’s doing that, you get a play-by-play account of funny things she remembers about filming the episode, or insights into the costumes, or what it was like to work with Kelly Bishop and Ed Herrmann. Ed Herrmann, by the way, is one of the people whose lack in the Gilmore Girls revival really hit me like a punch to the gut. And Talking As Fast As I Can doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that loss, as she recalls walking back onto the recreated Gilmore house set:
“You know how some people have such a big presence they just fill up a room? You might enter, and before you even see them you know they’re there? That was Ed. His presence was as tall and warm as he was. So his absence had a feeling too – the room was entirely different without his booming voice and easy laugh.”
You didn’t warn me I’d need tissues to read this book, Lauren!
In conclusion, if you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, chances are you like Lauren Graham, so the odds are pretty good that you will enjoy Talking As Fast As I Can. Be prepared for a quick, easy look back over an actress’ career and an insight into the pressures of revisiting an iconic character you once played. Not all of us are actresses but I think everyone can appreciate the hesistancy and anxiety she discusses when you revisit something or some place that was a much-loved part of your past, and now you worry just a little bit about whether it will still be quite as fun or beloved as it once was.
“I guess what I’m saying is, let’s keep lifting each other up. It’s not lost on me that two of the biggest opportunities I’ve had to break into the next level were given to me by successful women in positions of power. If I’m ever in that position and you ask me, “Who?” I’ll do my best to say, “You” too. But in order to get there, you may have to break down the walls of whatever it is that’s holding you back first. Ignore the doubt—it’s not your friend—and just keep going, keep going, keep going.”