WHY THE LONG FACE? by Craig Chester


The True Life Adventures of an Independent Actor
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Chester's go-ahead-and-laugh debut memoir shows a difficult adolescence evolving into a successful independent-film career.

The author reflects on his youth with a bleak, steady wryness. His family is standard-issue dysfunctional: Grandma’s comradely advice includes, “It's much worse to get hit in the face with your own shit than with someone else’s. Remember that”; while Mom offers, “I hope there's sex in heaven ’cause I sure do like it!” Growing up in this hapless, hopeless, yet oddly secure environment, Chester describes himself as “a socially unskilled, constipated, Christian gay child,” painfully shy and the class joke. Things can't get worse, it seems, until he begins showing symptoms of Long-Face Syndrome, a genetic disorder that tests even Chester's capacity for black humor. Painful and humiliating, endless surgery gives him a new face, and his experience out there on the margin of things presumably gave him the ability to see the comedy in his predicament that distinguishes his recollections—while asides like “the only thing better than winning in this life is proving people wrong” hint at a bilious undercurrent. Out of these ruins an actor is born, well versed in nuances and the oblique. Chester calls up choice moments in his rise as a performer, remembering an early gig at which his parents “sat quietly as their only son sang songs about eating ass.” On the politics of being openly gay in Hollywood, he comments of belatedly candid celebrities that “coming out once you have a mansion and a Range Rover isn't really the same as putting your ass on the line from the get-go,” and notes the weirdness of losing gay roles to straight actors because he’s “not gay enough” or because the people at home need to know it’s “all just pretend.”

Intriguing midpoint autobiography sure to rouse curiosity about what the next half has in store.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-28713-5
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2002