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The Autobiogra-phony

I woke up this morning, entangled in my silk sheets and gazed upon my impeccable visage in the colossal seven-foot long mirror. The revelation of my perpetual attractiveness was, unsurprisingly, my first triumph of the day. A rigorous fifteen-minute journey through the expanses of my ultramodern chic mansion led me to the arduous task of overseeing my office, where my dutiful secretary valiantly faced the burden of responding to my many mundane emails. Naturally, I needed a reprieve, so off I went for an urgent Thai stone massage. The inconveniences of my charmed, perfect life persist, as does the indomitable monotony of unparalleled opulence. Life is tough, friends. It always is.

A master of saying everything and nothing all at once! I sure would make a great celeb. Reading certain celebrity memoirs feels like deciphering the elusive aspects of their lives drowned in mundane details and words that I’m almost certain didn’t come out of their own lexicon. Not only is it uninteresting, it’s also a real pain to slog through. 

While some autobiographies disappoint, like Prince Harry’s Spare, others, such as Jennette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died, receive my highest praise. With the surge in supposedly self-written celebrity biographies, I can’t help but ask: are they truly penned by the authors themselves, and does it matter if they aren’t? 

Some celebrities, particularly actors, attract avid followers eager to delve into the intricacies of their careers, family backgrounds, and personal lives. For example, A Pocketful of Happiness by Richard E Grant.

Attending Grant’s talk in Oxford during his book tour was a real privilege, providing insights into his upbringing in Swaziland (now Eswatini), his relationship with vocal coach Joan Washington, and his fascination with Barbra Streisand (so I’m sure he is thrilled to also read her recently released memoir). With a blend of tenderness and humour, I was excited to read it after his talk, only to be a little disappointed at its structural integrity. Whilst heartwarming, the narrative lost its charm halfway through with excessive name-dropping and meandering stories. 

Similarly, I encountered struggles reading Making It So. Despite Patrick Stewart’s 83-year-old perspective, the memoir delved mostly into the first 25 years of his life, emphasising acting camps and teenage jobs. Surprisingly, it lacked depth about his later career, especially his iconic role in Star Trek. The focus on career overshadowed glimpses into his personal life, which mostly revolved around childhood or his affairs, but overall provided an interesting perspective, particularly for  those interested in his career at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I am certain that these books by Stewart and Grant were written by the actors themselves; they are filled with charm but not much editorial intervention.The personal insights humanise these celebrities and yet at times their exploration of topics so extravagant, such as Grant’s friendship with King Charles, makes it difficult to connect with them. Engaging with their audiobooks, however, proves satisfying, given their natural storytelling abilities. 

As fascinating as these grandiose memoirs are, dealing with fame, wealth, and lavish lifestyles, I find a deeper connection with narratives that offer a truly human experience, filled with emotions and relationships beyond the spotlight. Paris Hilton’s memoir, Paris, for example, defies expectations, considering her ditzy socialite persona. It is filled with heavy content shedding light on trauma and abuse during her time at a Utah boarding school. Despite her millionaire heiress status, Hilton’s transparency about collaborating with ghostwriter Joni Rodgers adds commendable authenticity– a rarity in an industry where many celebrities don’t acknowledge external help. 

Critics often reproach celebrities for not openly acknowledging using ghostwriters, deeming it ingenuine and arguing that it diverts resources from lesser-known authors – but I disagree. J. R. Moehringer, the ghost writer for Spare, contends that ghostwriters are essential for crafting the most compelling stories. He likens it to commissioning an artist to paint someone else’s vision. Celebrities bring unique and captivating details, and if they require a writing expert to skilfully articulate their story, collaboration sounds sensible. Ghostwriters, well-versed in the process, contribute to a more polished book, steering clear of mindless word salads in pursuit of authenticity. 

This collaboration enables an unconventional audience to experience the joys of reading, even if only as a gateway into the literary world. Consequently, this can prove beneficial for the publishing industry by generating more revenue. Celebrity memoirs are a reliable source of profit, providing the means to support and publish lesser-known authors. It’s a win-win scenario!

As long as celebrities are transparent and not intentionally misleading their audiences, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t applaud them for utilising writing and ghost writers to share their journeys with the world. 

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