A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Like many people, I often go through my public library’s catalog and place books on hold. Naturally, they all become available at once and then it’s a challenge to read them all before their due date. At one point last fall, I had 3 celebrity biographies out at the same time. Comedian Amy Schumer’s “Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo”, director John Waters’ “Carsick”, about his experience hitchhiking across the U.S. from Boston to San Francisco and Trevor Noah’s memoir of his childhood, “Born A Crime”. I kept worrying that any librarian checking my loans page would think me a bubblehead, as if community libraries have enough staff to spend time inspecting individual patrons’ lending lists.
When I mentioned being embarrassed about having all those books at once, an acquaintance told me, “Everyone has their guilty pleasures.” Which made me feel a little better. It also made me reflect on those things we read that we don’t like to admit to. In my case, why do I blush to read celebrity bios? Why don’t I feel the same when reading a biography of a historical person, or even a famous person in another line of work, such as a humanitarian, justice of the Supreme Court or politician? Is part of it their reputation? After all, some authors have gotten rich writing celebrity biographies filled with scandals. Remember all those Kitty Kelly’s books back in the late 1980’s, full of outrageous and questionable behavior by people such as Nancy Reagan? The covers always had the word unauthorised tucked into the titles, but that almost made it more valid, as if the subjects had wanted to keep their secrets under wraps at any cost. That ploy probably worked better back in the day when society was less permissive. Since the sixties, people are a lot less shocked than they used to be, what used to be a career-ending scandal then is greeted with a shrug these days. It must make things harder for blackmailers. But I digress.
A large amount of my shame about reading celeb bios is that people might think I’m too ditzy to comprehend anything more intellectual.Part of that is the aforementioned reputation of those books, that they are just a list of parties and affairs and not much else. But that idea is quite out of date, though I’m sure some still are. Like other people, many celebrities had difficult childhoods or struggles in the early days of their career and seeing how they overcame these obstacles can be encouraging.Reading about how they dealt with addictions or relationship problems makes them more human and relatable. Sometimes their beliefs and guiding philosophies can actually be quite deep and inspiring. When you think about it in that way, then there is no difference between a movie star autobiography and a so-called serious book such as “Eat, Pray, Love”, other than one was famous before they wrote the book and the other after. Also, some celeb bios are better written than that overrated example.
In the instance of the three titles at the beginning of this essay, Amy Schumer’s book reminded me that even strong, outspoken women can become involved in an abusive relationship. John Waters recounted how hitchhiking is actually more tedious than adventurous. And Trevor Noah’s account of growing up biracial in apartheid South Africa will be eye-opening to many of his readers. All of them a far cry from stereotypical fluff. And while I may not want to wear a t-shirt proclaiming my interest in celebrity memoirs, I certainly need to get over my embarrassment.
Photo of cotton candy heart and star found on Pinterest.