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May I Have Your Attention, Please? By James Corden

 

From a talented actor whose career very nearly imploded in an orgy of over-exposure, a memoir at the age of 33 is a bold move. Then again, as the title suggests, James Corden has never been one to shy away from the limelight. Aged four, while misbehaving at a christening, he realised an essential truth that has stayed with him ever since. "If people are looking at me, and only me, it feels amazing."

On one level, this is the story of Corden's relentless quest to be noticed, from an uneventful, if auditioned-filled, childhood in Buckinghamshire, through a series of career false starts (West End flop, film-set sacking, ill-fated turn in Hollyoaks) to the highs of The History Boys, Gavin & Stacey and his anointment as one of television's biggest, and, yes, most looked-at, stars.

Not all attention is good attention, though. And so this is also the story of Corden's rehabilitation, a memoir born of that phase which follows obscurity, recognition, ubiquity and disdain in the familiar cycle of celebrity. His addiction was to not drink, drugs nor sex (anything of the kind is glossed over swiftly), but rather to fame itself. When it finally arrived, it went straight to his head. "I had everything I ever dreamed of and yet I was behaving like an oaf."

Corden is now chastened, a contented fiancé and father of one. As such, his book is as much a record of a life as it is a therapeutic apology - to his family, colleagues, ex-girlfriends, even his neighbours. The problem is, it reads rather like a performance. Borrowing aspects from the most successful celebrity memoirs of the past five years - Peter Kay's larky style, Piers Morgan's name-dropping, Russell Brand's seamy benders - it's a slippery portrait, some warts but not quite all.

Still, the writing - matey and witty with bursts of Smithy-style sincerity - is distinctively Corden. And there are some compellingly odd anecdotes - about the time he rang up This Morning and pretended he was being bullied because he was "bored", the impossible demands of Mike Leigh's method, and his try-hard nights out with Lily Allen. But for the most part, it feels hasty and bloated. A riff on his GCSE options seems to go on forever. Like Corden, it doesn't quite know where to stop.

 

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