My Judy Garland Life: A Memoir

When I was about twelve years old, me and the other gay kid in my class used to hide in the library. This was partly because he got beaten up a lot and partly so we could photocopy pictures of the movie idols we unfashionably adored at a time when everyone else was into Take That. I remember one picture he chose; Deborah Kerr, in a huge skirt bedecked with spangles, twirling under a spotlight. I’ve still got it somewhere. It made me realise there was something more, something bigger than my life, and it was waiting for me; something keenly felt down the years by all the other friends of Dorothy.

This is a truly extraordinary memoir of what it means to love a complete stranger. And not just any stranger- Judy Garland, the ultimate gay icon. Susie Boyt (a straight, married woman with children, by the way) is the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, and so not only does she know the ramifications of the hero-worship she’s talking about, she comes at it from a unique perspective. Despite her manifest talents (both for creating novels and ambitious desserts) Susie Boyt keenly feels the pain of being potentially one of the less favoured in a family of stars- rather like the awkward, unpretty young Judy at MGM.

No holds are barred in Boyt’s unapologetic depictions of her own sensitivity; she’s a sort of anti-troll, shuddering inwardly at any hurtful remark she hears and careening through life dispensing cake, flowers and pink champagne. Even if I didn’t think Susie Boyt was fabulous (and I do) I’d still have to put My Judy Garland Life in the Empathy Library purely because it shows us what fandom is; a sort of training ground where our horizons are forcibly widened to prepare us for real love. I’ll never forget the intensity of my own teenage crushes, and what they did to help me transcend the id-based selfishness of childhood. There was something beautiful and terrifying in loving strangers when I was also an awkward, unpretty teenager, and not least because it taught me there were other people in the world.

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Susie Boyt
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