Henry’s instability, his search for a voice of his own, extends to his prose. He can be chatty and colloquial, all banter and bonhomie, recalling teenage high jinks with dizzied abandon. He can also be a bit pompous (“I’ve slowly come to understand the complexities of displacement, loneliness and the need for companionship”) and overly citational (quoting Derek Walcott, Nelson Mandela, CS Lewis). In the final, misguided section of the book he shifts to mentor mode, dispensing advice on microphone technique to would-be comics. He suggests he is readying two more volumes of memoir. That seems excessive. Who Am I Again? is raw, touching and all over the place. He says it’s not an autobiography, but a biography (“because I’m writing about someone I used to know”). He suspects he’s not black enough, not manly enough. Often he feels adrift, lost, in a “duvet of sadness”. The book ends with the question in its title left unanswered.
"One Booker shortlist later, Galley Beggar were proved correct. Ellmann’s novel isn’t perfect, and it may not take the prize, but in a world where Ian McEwan is still at large, something introspective and richly painted is a tonic for us all...."
— The Daily Telegraph
4.25 out of 5
The memoir, which recounts Henry’s life up to around 1980, is reflective and depressing... Some interesting subjects are left unexplored, though. Expressing admiration for 1960’s Bill Cosby is understandable – and would have been a common emotion for rising comedians back then – but Henry offers no thoughts on the subsequent vile revelations about one of his heroes. The most entertaining aspects of the book, which includes graphic novel-style strips illustrated by Mark Buckingham, are Henry’s touching memories of his upbringing and the potent language he heard as a child.
Henry’s memoir is as kinetic as he is, and he tells his story not only through prose, but also through everything from recipes to graphic-novel sequences, written by Henry and illustrated by the comic-book artist Mark Buckingham. These dramatise aspects of his life that seem to have been hard for him to put into words...
Strangely, he calls his memoir a “biography”, because, he says, it is written “about someone I used to know”. It is a touching, affectionate look at a person whom Henry understands is wholly different from who he is now.