"A writer uses a pen instead of a scalpel or blowtorch." -Michael Ondaatje
2009 is proving to be a strange year for autobiographies and tell-all memoirs. Why are media figures with tarnished public images so quick to enter the literary world? Maybe it's intended to be a scam. My theory is these quickie tomes are a facade so that the "authors" can go on the press junket; this way, they can write 400 pages of gibberish fully knowing nobody will buy, much less read the book. In writing this rant, the three books that come to mind are Mackenzie Phillips' High on Arrival, Gov. Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich's The Governor. I can't really say I've read any of these books --just a few excerpts that were leaked to the media-- so I'm not really at liberty to critique the memoirs themselves. Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore the smoke and mirrors.
From what I've read about The Governor, Blago continues to dish out the same empty rhetoric that made him an accidental media darling late last year. He takes his critics to task, vilifies everyone from Rev. Jesse Jackson to his own father-in-law, but never quite explains his accusations and what he is innocent of. Why this man keeps persevering is baffling. Bonnie Hunt (of all people) nailed it on the head when she interviewed Blago six weeks ago: if he claims to be innocent, why is no one coming to his defense? Why is he hiding the evidence that allegedly acquits him?
It's hard to say anything critical of Going Rogue without exposing a political bias. My only real question is how much of the book wasn't ghost-written; a co-author is not credited, though one must wonder how Palin wrote her autobiography so quickly. Reviews on Amazon.com have been mixed, which is odd considering that Rogue won't be in bookstores until November 17th and (as far I know) no advance copies have been released yet. On that note, I still think murmurs of a "vast left-wing conspiracy" trying to stifle Palin is a bunch of hooey. The McCain/Palin ticket lost last year because the GOP couldn't convincingly appeal themselves to moderates. Where Sen. McCain had a sliver of crossover appeal, Gov. Palin has both feet firmly planted in the conservative corner, take it or leave it. Regardless of its merits, conservatives will probably love the book and liberals and moderates will be apathetic. It's almost predestined.
Of the three big-name tell-alls released this year, Phillips' book probably has by far the thickest layer of slime. Why would she accuse her father of rape and molestation eight years after he died? John Phillips was well known in Hollywood circles for his debauchary and hard living so there's little reason of a doubt, but why call him out now when he obviously can't defend himself? In spite of any potential merits, High on Arrival has set a disturbing new plateau for celebrity memoirs; nobody will bat an eyelash at another washed-up TV actor's musings unless there's incest and preteen drug use involved. One can only hope that this is the sleazy autobiography that ends an entire subgenre of self-aggrandizing, profit-fueled bile.
+ I don't really recall where I was when the Berlin Wall fell. I was only five at the time, and I didn't have the attention span for watching the 5 o'clock news, so I probably learned about it several months after the fact. I do vaguely remember the reunification of Germany, though.
+ With all due respect to Wanda Sykes, Mo'Nique, and George Lopez, I'm not convinced that their new talk shows are going to last. The late night gabfest is a pretty crowded scene right now, and you'd think the powers that be had learned from the great logjam of 1993. Sure, talk shows are cheaper to produce than scripted shows, but even when you have 20 variations on the same theme it's still the same song.
+ File this in the "oops" department: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33622390/ns/world_news-weird_news/?gt1=43001
+ Next week: my fifth annual "Thanks/No Thanks" list.