One of the most insightful descriptions of Rob Lowe as recalled by Rob Lowe in his book about Rob Lowe, Love Life, comes from his Parks and Recreation co-star, Rashida Jones. Jones, he writes, says Lowe is a "benevolent narcissist." He good-naturedly agrees, noting he has "a modicum of self-awareness that allows me to avoid at least the clinical diagnosis."
Lowe's self-effacing and straightforward assessments of his own foibles and weaknesses, combined with first-rate storytelling skills and endless optimism, made his first memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, a best seller. It also helps make a mostly uneventful second memoir still feel like a night on the town with a well-connected, charismatic friend with more tales to spill. Just don't expect to remember too many of them when you finish the last page.
Stories covered, among other things, Lowe's days as a heartthrob, his partying and rehab, and Hollywood in the 1970s and '80s. In his latest, Lowe, 50, touches on these subjects in various, more fleeting ways, and settles into a look at more current issues, including his cherished family, recent roles, and Hollywood in the 21st century.
As for Lowe's family life, he discusses his love of being a father as opposed to what his family is actually like. But it's sweet, and he includes very funny accounts of a chaperoning gig at SeaWorld and coaching his sons' elementary school basketball teams. He was eventually overthrown because of moms who felt no team should experience the horror of loss in a game of scrimmage. Showing how well he can laugh at himself, he writes of the incident, "I haven't felt such tension and disapproval since I sang with Snow White at the Oscars."
The account of his career includes theater, movie and TV roles, interesting looks at blatant failures — 2003's The Lyon's Den and 2004's Mr. Vegas (a show from which Amy Adams was luckily booted for not being sexy enough, freeing her for a Junebug audition and eventual Oscar nomination ) — and his role as the pinched and plucked plastic surgeon Jack Startz in HBO's Behind the Candelabra. Don't, however, expect any Parks and Rec gossip (admirable — and, OK, disappointing).
Lowe adores his wife, Sheryl Berkoff, is over the moon about his two sons, and has seemingly settled into a peaceful life of an enthusiast with the world at his feet. Endearingly, he also knows how lucky he is. He pushes his range as an actor, has producing chops and business acumen, is proud of his accomplishments, and is ready for more challenges.
"Today I'm finding that fun is to be found embracing that I am once again in transition," he writes near the end of the book. "I have no idea what the future holds professionally. I will develop my own TV show; I have some interesting ideas, but you never know what will work."
Don't be surprised if it's a third memoir.
By Rob Lowe
Simon & Schuster
**½ out of four