The Real Life of Walter White

A Life in Parts
By Bryan Cranston, Narrated by Bryan Cranston
Definitely opt for the audiobook. 8 hours, 53 minutes. Currently $5 on Libro.fm

I know what you’re thinking. What am I doing reading this? Or posting about it anyway … a book about an actor? One of those things about the life of a movie, wait, not even, a television star?

I know. I didn’t think I had it in me. And no, I’m not like some kind of Bryan Cranston super fan or anything. I don’t read People Magazine. I generally don’t care about the personal lives of celebrities and I groan when contemplating those that do, those who like Kim Kardashian’s every highly paid post.

I’m not that kind of person.

I chose to listen to this, though, because, 1. I had heard it was really good, from the kinds of people who read capital “L” literature, not celebrity gossip mags, and 2. Bryan Cranston narrates the audiobook. Oh, and 3. It was on sale.

And you know what? I have no regrets.

No, it’s not GREAT. Not AMAZING. But it’s interesting. Ah! That’s a non-word. I mean, compelling. Insightful. Funny.

I’ve never read, or listened to, anything about the life of an actor before, so maybe that’s why I was game for this. It was about a field that I don’t really know much about beyond that which everybody knows. Like most actors work in L.A. restaurants, for example.

I’m somewhat familiar with Bryan Cranston’s work. It actually took listening to this to remember that he played the dentist, Dr. Tim Whatley, in “Seinfeld,” the one who converted to Judaism for the jokes, and who might have molested Jerry while the latter was conked out in the dentist’s chair.

But going in, I’d only known of Cranston as Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” which, yes, is a show that I do love as, I can only presume, do the vast majority of people who have seen it.

There are all kinds of cool nuggets that Cranston drops about working on various shows. You’ll appreciate those more, obviously, if you’ve seen them, so I very much enjoyed the “Seinfeld” and “Breaking Bad” bits, not as much the “Malcolm in the Middle” or “X-Files” parts because I didn’t watch either of those. But even those parts were enjoyable.

Because Cranston is a nice guy. I mean, of course he’s going to make himself seem like a nice guy, he did literally write the book on himself, and he does a great job of coming off as a nice guy. Which I do think he is. Because you know, sometimes you just know. You can tell from watching the interviews, even the performances, more or less how that person is in real life. At least I feel like I’m pretty good at it.

Tom Hanks? Yeah, obviously a super nice person (unless you’re one of those Q-Anon wackos who thinks he’s running a child sex ring or something). Ditto Mark Ruffalo. And Woody Harrelson. Despite being brilliant and having the absolute right to be a diva, I think Helen Mirren is probably really nice. As are her fellow Brits, Judi Dench and Emma Thompson.

Jennifer Lawrence? Tobey Maguire? Jennifer Aniston? Bruce Willis? I think it’s sort of obvious that they’re not so nice.

Where were we?

Oh yeah! Bryan Cranston! I think he’s one of the nicer ones, but even more importantly, he does a really great job of narrating this. I mean, you’d expect he would, being that he’s an actor and he’s narrating his own audiobook. But yeah, if you’re going to listen to an audiobook, I imagine you’d want to listen to one read by a professional actor reading his own material.

The early parts of this, especially Cranston’s story of the motorcycle trip he and his brother took across the US, reminded me of William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, in that it successfully relayed a sense of nostalgia-fueled adventure, even if those were adventures I never had. I felt, in those pages, and in Finnegan’s book, like I had had them though. Or certainly longed very strongly to have them.

“A Life in Parts” is a very good listen, and you won’t hear me apologize for saying so.

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