My Life as a Ten Year-Old Boy
by Nancy Cartwright, with a foreword by Dan Castellaneta, hardcover, 271 pages, 16 pages of b&w photographs.
The inspired casting of the voice artists on The Simpsons has been an enormous contribution to that show’s success. It made bona fide celebrities out of the entire unseen cast to a degree that is unparalleled in television animation.
Yet the popularity of Bart Simpson quickly made Nancy Cartwright the breakout performance in the early seasons, and afforded her the appearance as the star of the show, even though others in the ensemble have since found greater fame in other roles.
Cartwright’s claim to fame remains the voice of Bart, and hence the title of her book, MY LIFE AS A 10-YEAR OLD BOY.
Her enthusiasm for the role has always been hi-octane.
Anyone driving the Los Angeles freeways in the 1990s probably remembers seeing Nancy buzz by in her bright yellow Nissan with vanity plates (“ELBARTO”) and big Simpsons decals, proclaiming herself in over-the-top fashion. She loves the attention and is devoted to her fans.
Because of the legions of Simpsons faithful and because the show is surely now most of the way through its run, this book is certainly justified coming out before the end of the series.
The book starts out promising.
The early pages tell how one of the greatest of cartoon voice talents, Daws Butler, generously mentored young Nancy.
This section is heartwarming and will be inspirational (and informational) reading for anyone who aspires to work professionally in this capacity.
As well, Simpsons fans will get a firsthand account of the now legendary Simpsons anecdote of how Cartwright was supposed to audition for the role of Lisa, but instead brashly pursued and won the role of Bart.
However, her observations of her life as Bart, which represent the majority of this book, quickly become disappointing. Cartwright handles this memoir as a theatrical monologue, constantly using an interior voice to narrate her private reactions and fantasies to the unfolding events that catapult her to stardom.
The word “Omygod!” appears a lot.
While it’s quaint and endearing that she never feels like she’s the equal of other stars, the obligatory fawning over every perceived “real” star always becomes a distraction from some legitimately interesting anecdotes.
The other big disappointment to Simpsons fans will be the revelation of just how few guest stars she ever does meet and work with. Very few, especially relative to how many guest stars the allure of Springfield has attracted, as they are typically recorded in separate sessions.
The voice, or rather voices, of Nancy Cartwright make for a very chatty sort of narration, and one chapter is completely a fantasy sequence.
It’s not for everyone, but I suppose diehard Simpsons fans might forgive this to get her behind-the-scenes perspective of one of the world’s most beloved shows.