Why do we read memoirs?
We read biographies and autobiographies to learn more about a person. But why do we read memoirs?
The answer, I suspect, is different for everyone, but mostly I think it’s for insight. Either into a person; human nature; or a profession.
Behind the Mic, by Robert Dustman, is an autobiography masquerading as a memoir. It is a sequential history of Dustman’s adult life/career as a broadcaster with a few anecdotes along the way.
So the question the reader might ask here is “why a memoir of Robert Dustman?” But the better question is probably “WHO is Robert Dustman that we should read his story?” For that, I have no real answer. Perhaps that’s why we read a book like this … to get to know someone. But let’s face it … there’s a little bit of hubris in a case like this. To my knowledge, I’ve never encountered Dustman, or his work (before this book). I was drawn to the book because of the broadcasting work. Something I’ve often found to be interesting.
What we have here is the story of an average Joe (sorry, Mr. Dustman) trying to find his way in the broadcasting world. There are ups and downs, just as we all have. He faces the challenges of finding work that will support himself and his family. He works with people sometimes generous, sometimes Scrooge-ish. He makes mistakes, he sometimes does the right thing before anyone else.
So far, this sounds like you and me, doesn’t it?
The arc of the book is a straight line and the history is told in some very general terms with little specific moments tossed in. But it’s these little moments that make this a memoir rather than a straightforward biography and here it is that we have for some nuggets of hard truth or something that we can take away from the book to realize something more powerful than the word-a-day life. But we don’t.
I highlighted one moment in particular and noted “What’s the point of this story?” in the margins. Dustman tells the story of a moment when he was at a performance on a barge and, going from the barge to a boat to take him back to shore, he fell in the water, still dressed in his tuxedo. Everyone laughed. In the telling of the story, it comes across as quite funny. Even Dustman seems to think it was funny (the way I read this), but it ends with him seeking solace in the mini-bar in his hotel to “ease my pain and soothe my injuries and my pride.”
Is the point of the story that this is when he began to drink to hide something? Was this just one moment in time to show that he used alcohol to hide pain? It is not clear and it is not set up well because until that line, I thought this was a reflection of a humorous moment.
Dustman’s assessment of the news world today (“panders to the worst common denominator”) definitely hits home, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him write something that contrasts today’s media with the stories that he covered back in the 1970’s/1980’s. But as a memoir goes, this never really grabbed me, never gave me any insight that I could take away or possibly learn from. If you know of Dustman because you’re from an area where he worked, this could potentially be of more interest.
Looking for a good book? Robert Dustman’s memoir, Behind the Mic, could be of interest if you know the man, but falls a bit flat otherwise.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
Behind the Mic
author: Robert Dustman
publisher: Smashwords Edition
ebook, 175 pages