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A true tale of tragedy and triumph

Honesty, when it comes to celebrity memoirs, is a passing footnote at best.

An exception to this is first-time author Anthony Rapp, whose book Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent is a relative triumph.

Rapp paints himself in a light that isn’t always flattering, but always sincere. The majority of the book deals with the loss of his friend Jonathan Larson (the creator of the musical Rent, in which Rapp starred as Mark Cohen) and shortly after, Rapp’s own mother. A moment-by-moment account delivers every emotion and thought, no matter how selfish or neurotic.

The most emotionally driven parts of the book come when Rapp is coping with his mother’s long illness and subsequent death from cancer. Despite monthly trips home to Illinois, Rapp feels shut out from the daily trials of his family, as they first fear and then prepare for the impending loss of his mother.

For the Rentheads (fans of Rent), Rapp also outlines the backstage antics that occurred while the famous show was just beginning. After the loss of its young creator, the cast had to come together in their grief and put together the pieces of the puzzle Jonathan Larson left behind. Because Rapp had been a member of the production since the first casting, while it was in the workshop stage, he was regarded as an expert on the show.

Taking up a smaller portion of the book is the issue of Rapp’s sexuality and how it affected his relationship with his family, especially his mother.

As Rapp goes from boyfriend to boyfriend, becoming what he calls a “serial monogamist,” he deconstructs the good and bad times with each man. In one incident, Rapp recalls how he attacked one boyfriend with fists flying, requiring two men to hold him back. This is not the kind of confrontation that would usually make it into a celebrity’s memoir, and the fact that it is included adds to Rapp’s integrity.

It took 10 years after the events of the book occured before Rapp could sit down and write this novel. Despite the time gap, the story draws a throat-grasping emotional intensity, as though the experiences passed a week before.

Anthony Rapp will be talking about his book today at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome.