Lockdown Bookclub – My Judy Garland Life
As the title suggests, this isn’t a run-of-the-mill biography of Garland but a personal meditation on how the star shaped the author’s life. Susie Boyt was a sensitive child – so much so, her heart went out to items left abandoned at the supermarket checkout. Told to toughen up and control her feelings, the young Boyt felt too much – so naturally she was drawn to Judy, who was often accused of being over-emotional. But as the author reminds us, Garland was also an enormously talented and generous artist, and one who enjoyed an extraordinary rapport with her audience.
Boyt’s gateway to Garland was The Wizard of Oz, which she saw at the cinema with her mother. When Dorothy sang Over The Rainbow, something clicked. “I had never heard anything like it in my life, Boyt writes. “It was immediately clear to me that Garland’s singing bypassed all the indignity of strong feelings that I was grappling with, and instead she capitalised on her struggles. She absolutely led with them, presenting them as the best things life contains.”
How many of us can identify with that feeling? Quite a few, I’ll bet. It’s no accident that the Stonewall Riots began on the night of Garland’s funeral. Many gay men adored Judy. Many still do. When Boyt read from her book at Polari in 2008, she brought with her several prized possessions once owned by the star, including Judy’s hat and shoes – much to the excitement of the audience.
This is a book about fandom and frailty, love, grief and consolation. It also includes personal encounters with Mickey Rooney and Ms Liza Minnelli. If that doesn’t bring you joy, I don’t know what will.