Books

Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography by Billy Connolly: One of the greatest storytellers

Billy Connolly’s long and vivid life makes for a joyous memoir, writes Paul Whitelaw.

Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography by Billy Connolly (Two Roads, £25)

Billy Connolly has, over the last six decades, unloaded an avalanche of intimate details about his private life. Such is our familiarity with the Big Yin’s saga, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s already written his memoir.

But no, that’s the Mandela Effect in action; Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography is actually the first time he’s committed his entire life story to paper.

If you’re a Connolly fan, you’ll recognise many of the stories contained herein. Some of them are recounted verbatim from his stand-up routines.

However, and at the risk of sounding morbid, this is essentially Connolly’s final written testament: the ultimate account of his extraordinary life, recorded for posterity. The repetition is permissible.

And it’s not as if the book is entirely reheated. It’s peppered with anecdotes and details he’s never shared on stage or on chat shows before. His life is a seemingly infinite wellspring of incident, all of which he’s commendably frank and open about.

When discussing the abuse he suffered as a child, he’s matter of fact but never glib. Connolly writes movingly about the shame, anger and deep-seated sense of worthlessness he struggled with for years. That scared, vulnerable wee boy is still in there.

But this is no misery memoir; Connolly would be appalled by the very idea. It’s a largely joyous affair in which the author relishes his good fortune and all the ridiculous adventures he’s had.

Connolly, who has Parkinson’s, dictated this tome using a smartphone app that struggled with his Glasgow accent, hence why his daughters had to transcribe it all. And that’s presumably why the book unfolds in the conversational, digressive style of his live shows. It’s broadly chronological yet riddled with delightful tangents.

One of the world’s greatest living storytellers, Connolly has an eye for vivid detail; his offhand turns of phrase are often immaculate. He comes across as a sensitive, thoughtful and inquisitive man who revels in the cosmic absurdity of life.

And comedy scholars will be thrilled by his rare analysis of that unique stagecraft. He’s a comic genius who, at the age of 78, is almost willing to admit it. Quite right too.

Windswept & Interesting: My Autobiography by Billy Connolly (Two Roads, £25) is out now.

@paulwhitelaw

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