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a Book Review of the memoir by Will Smith and Mark Manson
Will, by Will Smith and Mark Manson is a memoir about, you guessed it, Will Smith. I will happily admit, I picked up this book because I love Will Smith. As promised, Will delivers large quantities of Will Smith — the memoir follows his journey from childhood to his late career, and is hilarious and moving in turns.
I LOVED the parts about the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. As a 90’s kid, I grew up watching reruns of the Fresh Prince. Will Smith was the epitome of cool. I loved the opening song to the show — I used it in one of the only obligatory school performances I actually enjoyed. We changed the lyrics to tell the story of Romeo & Juliet and performed it in front of our parents (sorry, mom) and our classmates. Fortunately for you, the lyrics have been lost to time, specifically, to the demise of my dial-up desktop windows computer from the early 2000s.
The authors make a joke about how the reader probably thought the memoir would start with the premiere of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Honestly, I did think it was going to start with Smith’s TV Show, and I probably would have enjoyed the book more if it did. However, it was important for the narrative to have a beginning, middle, climax, and end. These plot elements are represented by Smith’s early childhood, the rise of his career, his divorce and “After Earth” (one of the worst movies ever), and an emotional resolution. The beginning, middle, and climax were well crafted and very engaging. However, the book’s ending did not have a clear moral or direction. In fact, there were three different endings, none of which were cohesive, including one where Will does Ayahuasca.
It’s apparent that Smith is proud of his accomplishments. It’s impressive how Smith is able to tout his own awesomeness without seeming condescending; this is accomplished by sandwiching his successes between a smile and a laugh. One of his talents is that he is a likable braggart. This comes across in the book, because I was constantly laughing and smiling.
Smith’s success is a combination of talent, luck, and planning — he puts a lot of time into understanding the movie industry and makes conscious decisions to enhance his career. He understands he is a commodity and he markets himself accordingly. The memoir Will is extremely consistent with Smith’s brand; there is no question that this book is biased and intentionally tells Will’s story as a hero’s journey. Smith understands that the most successful and interesting narratives follow a specific formula; he admits this in the memoir when he discusses his favorite books “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell.
I appreciate that Smith did not ghost his ghost writer. You, like me, may be wondering: who is Mark Manson? Mark Manson is a self-help writer and blogger most well known for his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Mark Manson spent 3 years with Will Smith helping him write his memoir.
I think a lot of memoirs written by ghostwriters are really great. Examples include: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (ghost written by J.R. Moehringer) and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. Ghostwriters can be extremely talented. If you’re interested, you can get your novel ghostwritten through fiverr. No promises about the quality.
This book was really great and increased my conviction that Will Smith is awesome. I only have one major complaint about Will: as someone from Trinidad and Tobago, I can tell you Smith’s Tobagonian accent in the audiobook is bad and generic — he should have gotten an accent trainer. Overall, it was an excellent read about a talented actor/musician/creator.
The Don’t Call Me Ishmael Official Book Rating, Sponsored by Whale Smith (WS, no relation):
4/5 Whales. A Tail for the Ages.