“It was easier to hear myself through someone else’s voice,” says Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films and first-time author of the well-received collection of short stories, “You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales.” A New York Times bestseller released earlier this month, the audiobook features such boldfaced names as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lena Dunham, Kathy Bates, Rosie O’Donnell, Katie Couric, and RuPaul, to name a few.
Each chapter, its own contained story about topics both amusing and heart-wrenching — the loss of a loved one or animal, learning your child has Tourette’s, deciding to get a facelift — is paired with a performer, as it were. Nevins, who recruited and paid for the recordings herself, describes how things came together naturally, sometimes surprisingly.
“Gloria Vanderbilt asked to read the story about adultery, which I didn’t think anyone would want to take, but Gloria said, ‘Well I know a great deal about it, darrrrling,'” Nevins purrs with a laugh. “Rosie wanted to read about Tourette’s because she knows a lot about wounded kids; Tovah [Feldshuh] seemed natural for the antisemitism story, ‘Letter to a Dead Great-Aunt,’ and she moved right into it; Meryl wrote me a letter thanking me for writing the book and asked to read ‘The Wrong Kind of Hot;’ Lena was a good fit for ‘From Cosmo to Ms.'” Glenn Close, Nevins adds, recorded her portion while on set in Glasgow.
“I was surprised by how pushy and gutsy I was,” says Nevins of making the asks. “I’ve been pushing for other people’s films, so I pushed for my audiobook.”
Another friend she recruited was musician Michael Bacon who wrote the score which pops in and out of the narration.
As for a possible future to the stories on screen: “I wish someone would make a movie — about a mother who has a kid who has Tourette’s, who has a job, who wants a facelift, whose own mother gives her a hard time,” says Nevins. “It should be funny.”
Of course then, that begs the question, who would play the lead role? Nevins, clearly having thought about it, has the answer. “Judith Light would be great, I’d just have to steal her away from ‘Transparent.'”