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My Thoughts Exactly: The No.1 Bestseller by…
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My Thoughts Exactly: The No.1 Bestseller (edition 2018)

by Lily Allen (Author)

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272628,599 (3.67)None
I'm strong. I can be tough. I've been broken. I'm opinionated. I'm a people-pleaser. I'm spoilt. I'm needy. I contradict myself. I try to do good. I want to do good. I'm impassioned. I'm observant. Most importantly, I tell the truth. And this is my story.
Member:pva
Title:My Thoughts Exactly: The No.1 Bestseller
Authors:Lily Allen (Author)
Info:Blink Publishing (2018), Edition: None ed., 352 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
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My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

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In spite of the weird words where Allen states that she did not enjoy a privileged upbringing—she did—the rest of this book is thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s the degree I’m interested in: the things in my life that changed events, upended things, upset the cart. Sometimes, these were external events I had no control over: my son, George, was born three months prematurely, but had already died inside me; I was stalked for seven years and felt my life threatened by someone with a severe mental illness, then witnessed his trial – I’ve been through episodes of mental ill-health myself, so I felt for him despite what he did to me, as it’s no fucking picnic; I’ve been sexually harassed as an adult by someone in a position of power and whom I trusted; and I was taken advantage of sexually as a young teenager by men who should have known better. Turns out, it’s an all-too-common experience. (Me too.) Sometimes it was me, myself, who wreaked havoc on my own life, as you’ll see. (Self-destructive.)

She seems to be entirely honest about what she writes; as with any autobiography, it’s always important to see what’s behind the obvious. You won’t get that here. This is more a recant to a friend than it is deep introspection, more Courtney Love than Simone de Beauvoir, but if we were to criticise Allen for that, we’d miss the point: she’s a modern-day storyteller, and a very good one at that, so just shut up and get on the ride, yes?

I started singing as a child at school, but discovered music as a young teenager and kept it close to me from then on. I read. I keep notebooks. I’ve got a good eye. I collect textiles, love colour, and decorating or doing up a house doesn’t faze me at all. I exercise but I’m not a natural athlete. I’m a swimmer. I’m strong. I can be tough. I’ve been broken. I’m opinionated. I’m a people-pleaser. I’m a narcissist. I’m co-dependent. I don’t always like being alone, though equally there are times when I can’t bear company. I’m spoilt. I’m needy. I can be a hypocrite. I contradict myself. I can be cold.

I feel it’s refreshing to read self-deprecation unless it’s written in vain. The above is a good glug of honesty, albeit not nuanced; but that’s the start of the book, and reading it for the second time is actually a taster into what Allen has explained previously.

Allen writes a lot about her family, and focuses on her dad, or really, about his absence from everybody’s lives. She brands him a liar, a narcissist, and truthfully, she’s not the only one to have done that; Alex James’s first autobiographical book contains quite a lot of tomes from the days of Keith Allen’s partying with him.

Groucho’s was part of my life from a young age. I knew the phone number off by heart by the time I was six. How depressing is that? The name rings true for me too, because it really is a club I do not want to be part of, and yet they will have me as a member. God knows, I’ve spent enough time there over the years, enough even to be barred entry for a month at a time once or twice over the years, after being caught doing drugs in the loo. But when we were young, a room there was Dad’s idea of childcare. Dad didn’t do much of that – childcare, that is. Mostly, when it came to Dad looking after us, it was cancellations, crap excuses and disappointments.

Dad didn’t like it when Mum got together with Harry. He was horrible about him. He called Harry a dick. I know, Dad. You left Mum in a ditch with three kids to look after, and Harry, who everyone adores and who doesn’t take cocaine, took on the family you abandoned without complaint. What a dick.

Allen is good at writing straight-up stuff without obvious intent to shock the reader; it’s frankly refreshing to read her calling her dad a dick—because he obviously has been one.

Her terse words on how she started out with songwriting, becoming immersed with what she does very well on the lyrical front, is indicative of her entire outgoing career, really:

Similarly, for our English lessons, when he taught us The Day of the Triffids, written by John Wyndham, who had lived close to the school, Mr Langlands took us outside and into the landscape to read passages from the book, so we listened to the words while sitting in the very vegetation that had inspired Wyndham. That helped teach me that storytelling could be painterly and visual, and it’s a lesson I use in my songwriting still. I don’t want to write about a particular single feeling, or settle on one refrain in songs – ‘Oh, my heart is broken; gee, how I love you…’, etc. Instead, I try and build up layers of details – it’s Tesco carrier bags that the little old lady in ‘LDN’ is struggling to carry; it’s his parents’ basement where my URL Badman sits at his computer, in the song of the same name – to deliver a whole picture and tell a contained story.

The second song I wrote was ‘LDN’. That came easily, too. I’d spent all this time in London sitting in Falafel King or in cafés on the Portobello Road or on the bus or tube, watching people and how they interacted with each other. I’d fill in the gaps and create stories around the people I saw, making up conversations I imagined they’d be having, as if I was watching a movie that I was making up as I went along. I’d think about what their houses looked like, or whether they had kids, and what they’d have for dinner. I had this fantasy thing going on all the time in my head, and once I started writing, it all came out.

On how she got her first record deal, which rings sweetly:

The deal that Dad got was with a record company owned by Warner called London Records, but I don’t think he did it just as a way to make money. I think the idea to make a record together was a way for Dad to show that he loved and believed in me. I think it was his way of trying to give me something. I think it came from a nice place. I think. Other times I think maybe he got a big finder’s fee and signing up his seventeen-year-old daughter to be a singer was about cash, but mostly I dismiss that thought and go with the nicer, better, sweeter version. That’s how I got my first record deal – it was an act of nepotism, pure and simple.

That build-up and last sentence says quite something about her writing overall, I feel. Good. It’s sorely needed.

The following paragraphs says a lot to me of how many women see many men, and sadly, for good reasons:

George was fit and quite a bit older than me. He was exactly my type. I assumed he was making a pass at me. I thought I was in. But George didn’t come on to me. He took me back to his house and made up a bed for me on his sofa. When I woke up the next morning, he poured me a cup of coffee. ‘I hope you don’t mind,’ he said, ‘but I went through your phone while you were asleep and called your mum. I told her that I don’t think you should be here any more. I’m going to take you to the airport and put you on a plane back to London.’ And that’s what he did. It was an amazing thing. It was one of the first times a man had done something nice for me without any sexual agenda. George was a life-changer. I didn’t know that then, and I didn’t think about him much after that, but he held on to my number and nearly two years later he rang me at exactly the moment I needed to hear from him, then helped reset me on my track forwards. Sometimes, you meet the good guys.

Gordon Ramsay has always been a dick. And a bitch.

Gordon Ramsay: ‘What do you think of Lily Allen? Chick with a dick?’ Cheryl Cole: Nods. Laughs. Nods again. Oh my fucking God! Cheryl Cole basically called me a chick with a dick on national fucking television. When ‘Smile’ was released as a single, one of the B-sides was a song called ‘Cheryl Tweedy’. It’s a jaunty little number about my own self-loathing. The first verse goes: ‘I wish I had qualities like Sympathy Fidelity Sobriety Sincerity Humility. Instead I got lunacy.’ The chorus goes like this: ‘I wish my life was a little less seedy Why am I always so greedy? / Wish I looked just like Cheryl Tweedy.’

And yah, she’s entirely right about the nepotism and dominance of the major record labels (may they die, including streaming platforms like Spotify):

The point is, those awards are hollow. They’re about what deals and negotiations are going on between the labels. It’s their show. That’s why you saw Skepta and Stormzy being nominated in 2017, but neither one winning a single prize. What do you mean they didn’t win? Which other artist has had a bigger impact on the music industry over the last few years? No one! But that would be a waste of a prize or two as far as the big companies are concerned, because both those guys are independent rather than signed to any major record label.

Also, brilliant point made:

Still, at least they don’t have to take half their clothes off to perform on those kinds of shows. I don’t think Stormzy has ever had to deal with a comment about his arse.

It’s brilliant to read her words on sex and self-worth, something that all can connect to (or, nearly all):

That’s what I did with all the guys I dated. I attached myself to them as firmly as I could, and as stickily as they’d allow. I’d convince myself that they were right for me and we were meant to be together, even if really we would have been better off as friends. Indeed, I’ve stayed friends with all my ex-boyfriends, which might prove my point. I was confused at the beginning of my sexual life about my own desire for other people. Often, if a guy fancied me, that was enough for both of us. My self-worth was low and so being fancied, which I translated as being wanted (and thus loved), felt intoxicating enough to agree to sex.

Allen writes sensitively, and straightforwardly striking about her stillborn first child:

In the morning the midwife said, ‘You’re crowning. We can see the baby’s head. Not long now.’ Then some time later – I don’t know how long, maybe it was five minutes, but it could have been five hours, she said – ‘The cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck. There was a pulse. Now there isn’t. There is no pulse now.’

That meant the baby was dead. He wasn’t out of my body yet, but they knew. They called it. He was dead. I could feel his little head between my legs. But my contractions weren’t strong enough to push him all the way out. The doctors told me they couldn’t pull him out with forceps or use a ventouse because doing that would rip him apart. He was too small, too underdeveloped for those things. The only thing to do was pump me full of drugs to help increase my contractions. I was warned that these drugs would make me very sick and that it would still take time for them to work.

My baby was dead. I couldn’t escape the enormity of that. He was physically stuck, not quite outside me, not safe inside, either. I was physically stuck, too. I hadn’t been able to keep him inside me and now I couldn’t deliver him. For ten hours between my baby dying and me getting him out, I entered a realm I’d never been to before. It is a realm I cannot describe or revisit, even if I wanted to. The sickness I was experiencing was consuming. I felt knocked out. I felt not human.

George was born that evening. He was cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket and a little hat, and Sam and I held him for a long time. We took photographs. We’d had our little babe and he was in our arms; it’s just that he wasn’t alive. Then the doctors put me to sleep. In the morning, we were discharged. The hospital needed the bed.

The reactions to the video for Allen’s single “Hard Out Here“, a comeback single of sorts, and mainly, Allen’s reaction to them, is astoundingly good (I feel):

I was upset by the negative reactions to ‘Hard Out Here’. One woman, a poet called Deanna Rodger, performed a spoken word response to the video and uploaded it online. She cried while she performed her piece because I’d upset and offended her so much. I was livid when I first saw Rodger’s video, because I felt like she was using me to make a bigger point (a point I agreed with, that I was trying to make and get across in the video). But once I’d got over feeling defensive, I listened to what she had to say. What she said made me adjust and shift my thinking. It made me realise that my naïvety over the video and the reaction to it was the privilege of being a white woman. As a result, I began to read about intersectional feminism. I began to learn more and I began to look at my output in a more responsible and considered way. That’s what happened in the long term: I learned and grew from negative experiences, my fuck-ups, and the shit I had to deal with.

Then, honestly as usual, Allen writes about blowing up on tour:

I have a history with drugs and alcohol, but in terms of sex, up until my Sheezus tour, I was pretty straight. I didn’t masturbate and barely watched porn. Sure, I’d shagged around a bit, but I didn’t consider myself promiscuous. But I left our family Arizona therapy session angry, sad and confused. So here’s what I did: I started exploring sex, and not with my husband. I started sleeping with people on my tour.

And this is why she writes lyrics like drinking water is to a lot of people:

Who knows why a marriage falls apart? There are the reasons that you know, that you can talk about, and then there is the more mysterious part of it: the part that means you don’t, or can’t, try hard enough to fix things. The part that goes: All I wanted was to be with you forever but now I can’t be with you at all.

She writes a lot about the debilitating trauma brought on by being stalked by Alex Gray, a mentally disturbed person, for seven years; he broke into her home, confronting her as she woke up. I can’t even imagine that trauma.

Thoughts on people attacking on Twitter:

I don’t react well to being bullied or backed into a corner. I don’t want to be silent. That’s why I keep tweeting – even though my Twitter feed is hijacked by people tweeting hateful comments. Often this takes the form of men consistently tweeting the same three charges against me to prove their point and win their argument. The charges are 1) I’m a bad mother; 2) I’m famous because of my dad; and 3) I’m stupid. In other words, what they do is belittle me.

Because if you shout at someone enough and tell her she’s a dumb woman who wouldn’t be anywhere without her dad, then she’ll shut up, right? Example: I was tweeting about a Theresa May speech recently and someone tweeted: ‘Oi, Lily, can I smell your privates?’ I replied: ‘Yeah, sure, but you might want to wait because I’m on the blob.’ My Twitter feed went mad. People were outraged. ‘How can you say that?’ the tweets went. ‘No wonder everyone hates you,’ they went on, ‘when you talk like that.’ I was, like, What planet are we on? This guy just asked to sniff my privates but I mention my period and I’m the one who is disgusting?

Overall, the book is a very easy read with moments that made me go yikes, regardless the fact that most of us go through them at times; I’m not talking about appearing at the brit awards, but rather everything that isn’t swill and fill; this is a deeply human book, and it’s like…more like reading lyrics by Lykke Li than Lily Allen, I feel, but I doubt that many people can produce a book like this, so swathed in self-awareness, in a very, very good way. Montaigne would have turned glad, I think. ( )
  pivic | Mar 23, 2020 |
Best for:
People interested in learning a bit about what the music industry can be like for young women, and a lot about what it was like for Lily Allen.

In a nutshell:
Musician Lily Allen shares her life story, including all the messy bits.

Worth quoting:
“When women share their stories, loudly and clearly and honestly, things begin to change - for the better.”

Why I chose it:
I was looking for another audio book and this one was on sale. Plus, read by the author, so right up my alley.

Review:
I knew very little about Lily Allen when I purchased this audio book. I think the only songs of hers I know are Smile and Fuck You, both of which I enjoy. And when she talks about the well-placed anger over her ‘Hard Out Here’ video, I recalled having read something about it. Beyond that? Nothing.

Allen opens herself up to the reader, sharing stories from her childhood through until right now, with an updated chapter added to the audio book in 2019. She shares her challenges with drugs and drinking, with her family, with sex and relationships. She is also brutal in her honestly and clarity around the feelings that accompanied two very hard times in her life: the death of her son George just before his birth, and her experience with a stalker. She is honest about how she perceives her faults, but also doesn’t hide behind false humility when it comes to her talents in her music career.

Really I have just one area of disappointment with this book. Allen was raised by people in the entertainment industry, but spends some time in this book stating that she was able to get her successful music career on her own. After reading this memoir, I can see why it annoys her that people think that her connections are why she’s successful, because she did work quite hard (and she is talented). But there is a bit of self-awareness around there that is lacking. She didn’t pull herself up all on her own - she definitely had a hand, and even while she’s being rightfully pissed at the tabloids assigning 100% of her success to her privilege, she seems to not fully acknowledge the benefits she had. Now obviously I don’t know everything (a couple hundred pages, no matter how honest, don’t tell anyone’s full story), but in what appears to be an otherwise open and raw book, it was the one thing that seemed off to me.

That aside, as someone who knew very little about and wouldn’t consider herself a fan of the author, I still enjoyed hearing about her life and getting her perspective on things. I think others will enjoy it as well.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a Friend ( )
  ASKelmore | Jan 2, 2020 |
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