Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life, By Michael Moore
Monday 17 October 2011
In 2003, the film director Michael Moore made his infamous Oscar acceptance speech in which he called George Bush a "fictitious president" who had sent America to war "for fictitious reasons".
He was rewarded with a vandalised statuette, half a ton of manure on his front lawn and so many threats of violence that he was forced to hire a bevy of ex-Navy Seals to see off any would-be assassins.
Public opinion would swing round to his way of thinking, helped in no small way by his 2004 film about the war on terror, Fahrenheit 9/11. In case we don't understand quite how important Moore's film was, he is kind enough to spell it out at the start of his memoir. It wasn't just "the largest grossing documentary in the history of cinema", it was also "the largest-grossing Palme d'Or winner ever". And just so we're clear: "This was no longer just some little documentary... This was now cover of Time magazine territory."
There is plenty to admire in Moore's willingness to jeopardise his physical wellbeing in order to expose the hypocrisy at the heart of the US administration. You just wish he wouldn't keep boasting about it. Moving on from self-congratulation, Moore's memories of childhood make for a more engaging read. He describes starting a newspaper at nine, being kicked out of a seminary in his early teens and becoming the bête noir of governors at his high school. Having been beaten by a teacher for not tucking in his shirt, he got himself elected to the school board, becoming the youngest elected official in the US.
For the most part, Moore presents his life as a series of gallant escapades, from the time he talked a boy out of suicide at his crisis centre to his rescue of a friend in the aftermath of a botched abortion. At 17, he exposed the institutional racism of the Elks, a nationwide club sponsoring a school speech competition: "My speech was occasionally cited as a spark for this march forward in racial fixing in the great American experiment," observes Moore, generously adding, "there were other speeches far more eloquent than mine." Given his lifelong battle against injustice and inequality, Moore clearly has a big heart but, my oh my, his ego could eclipse the sun.
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