Book Review: My Extraordinary Ordinary Life

Sissy Spacek

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life

by Sissy Spacek with Maryanne Vollers
Hyperion, 288 pp., $26.99

The reason you don't read about Sissy Spacek's marriage or peccadilloes or scandals is that she doesn't really have any. Remarkably, Sissy Spacek leads a decent, quiet, gratifying life – contrasting vividly with a lengthy acting career crowned by an Academy Award. Which isn't to say that she hasn't had her moments when the door was closed and no window opened, only that My Extraordinary Ordinary Life is as easy to read as it is a pleasure to digest.

Written like a collection of vignettes, the words sound as if they are spoken in Spacek's soft Southern drawl, even in print. She grew up in the rural, near-idyllic setting of Quitman, Texas, a majorette and tap dancer playing her Sears Silvertone guitar in high school, all in the bosom of a loving family. Her extraordinary experiences come naturally, even the sad death of her brother, Robbie. An eye-opening summer between junior and senior year in New York City under the tutelage of her cousin and his wife – actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page – turned her interest from music to acting. Meeting her husband, Jack Fisk, on the set of her first major role in Badlands, how her Raggedy Man character is an homage to her own mother – all are told in evenly paced and occasionally wry prose.

That uniformity sometimes gives her silver screen tales a dull patina. Spacek paints stylish and spare portraits of the elusive Terrence Malick and hard-drinking Lee Marvin, but even when she wins the Oscar for her performance in Coal Miner's Daughter as Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton encourages her to "get a boob job and do the Dolly Parton story," you want a little more sense of accomplishment and, yes, maybe the gossip and glamour.

But then you wouldn't be getting Sissy Spacek, the one who sought a life for her family in rural Virginia and found it. Who harbored musical aspirations of her own and whose singer-songwriter daughter Schuyler was blessed in the womb with a musical spirit by Rodney Crowell. The Sissy Spacek that guards her ordinariness fiercely and clings to the traditions that give her strength and solace and inform the multitude of characters she's played over the years.

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life comes with a rare grace note: small line drawings throughout the book of animals, people, places, and objects. Simple and without artifice, they dapple the pages with whimsy and visual delight – a reminder that although iPads may be unmatched for convenience, Sissy Spacek understands that the pleasure of running a finger over the page of a book and feeling the paper below never goes out of style.

Sissy Spacek will speak and sign books at the LBJ Presidential Library on Tuesday, May 8, at 6pm.

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My Extraordinary Ordinary Life, Sissy Spacek, Jack Fisk, Rip Torn, Geraldine Page, Rodney Crowell, Terrence Malick, Lee Marvin

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