Thursday, May 06, 2010

Celebrities are often Stupid

I know I should not look to celebrities to save publishing, or to even contribute usefully to publishing. I mean I suppose they help independent bookstores, since celebrity books can sell billions of copies, and maybe they help the bottom line of some big corporate publisher and that in turn allows said big corporate publisher to take risks elsewhere (the questionable "blockbuster" strategy). But this week, I'm really tired of hearing celebrities mouth off about being stupid, even as they promote some new book.

Case in point: Sarah Silverman in the Boston Globe, telling Eugenia Williamson in a Q&A, "I’m not a fast reader and it’s always been discouraging for me. I read everything that was assigned to me at school, but I tended to obsess over TV." Outstanding. She also remembers her father's unrequited love of writing, with the following anecdote: "When I was growing up he would let glimpses of it out. I would get assigned an essay for school, and he would say, 'Take dictation!' and write the whole thing, pacing, while I scribbled down everything he said." She can't remember the name of the teacher who recommended a book that changed her life, though she fortunately remembers the book (John Berger's Ways of Seeing), and one of her favorite books is a Garfield title - yes, the animated cat. I know she prides herself on being irreverent and even openly stupid and offensive, but this is part of a larger trend, one where celebrities get their name on a book, most likely having used a ghostwriter and probably a lot of work from an editor, and then mock any commitment to writing in publicity.

I was in NYC this week for a conference, and I had the tv in my hotel room on as I took a shower in the morning. I came out and Regis & Kelly were on, interviewing comedian Damon Wayans. It seems he has a new novel out called Red Hat, but during this interview, he was telling the sad story about dropping out of school in the 9th grade, and how no teacher ever encouraged him. But he did tell a charming story about a biology teacher who told Wayans that if he let the teacher have control of the class all week, he (the teacher) would give him (Wayans) 10 minutes on Friday, to perform. Did he then commit to the class? No, he just shut up and waited for his opportunity to do a comedy bit, in the 8th grade. Didn't read, didn't learn, didn't respect.

I guess Wayans had a hard time growing up, with a lot of siblings and not much money, and he was in the NYC public school system. Fine. He dropped out. Okay, that's hard. But really, can't he now think about why he did not pay attention, or try to talk up the benefits of reading somehow? I mean, he kind of needs people to commit to reading on some level if he wants to sell his "moving debut novel about how a bitter and lonely woman rediscovers her ability to give and receive love." (I know, I know...)

To give credit where credit is due, at least Ms. Molly Ringwald talks in a writerly way as she does the rounds to promote Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick. Over at the Daily Beast, she tells Rebecca Dana about what she reads and how she came to commit to writing a book (she thanks her therapist - I can't win 'em all.) Elsewhere, she talked about how much work it was. Yes, it's work if done right! In this article, she's identified as "a life-long reader" (hurray!), and even is quoted as saying, “I really looked toward writers more than actors.” I may not buy her book, but I respect her soundbites.

I wish these celebrities would wake up a bit when promoting books and use the platform to promote reading, not just their schlocky products, most of which, as has been said, will end up in bargain bins anyway.

And just to keep up with the trend criticized in my last post, it seems another blogger - Jessica Shroeder of the blog "what i wore" - got herself a big fat book deal! And Jill Schwartzmann at Ballantine adds another quality product to the list... Actually, in fairness, this one seems like a bit more of a legitimate, if l-i-t-e, book, given that it's fashion tips, and not just blog crap. See, I'm big enough to admit that.

PS - BUT WAIT! No sooner had I posted this then I see the Onion has one-upped me with this video, about Drew Barrymore's memoir - a coloring book. Ingenious!

Drew Barrymore's New Tell-All Coloring Book Hits Shelves

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