Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Library Loot Mini-Reviews: Celebrity Memoirs

Down the Drain
Don't ask me why I decided to read Down the Drain by Julia Fox - because I couldn't tell you. Before starting the audiobook I was operating under the assumption that she was famous for dating Kanye West. I'd never heard of her, she hitches her wagon to him, they break up, suddenly she's everywhere. I walked away from this book learning a few things: 1) Fox is what I call "New York City Famous" and 2) She can write her face off (I'm taking her at her word that a ghostwriter wasn't employed). Kayne doesn't actually show up until you're 90% of the way through, and honestly he's the least memorable (or interesting) part of this story.

What we have here is one of those seedy-underbelly memoirs.  There was a movie in the 1990s called Kids that a lot of people thought was edgy, raw and therefore, good.  It was not. It was Rosario Dawson's big break however - which I think is why people remember it. Anyway, this memoir is like Kids times 1000, with some acid thrown on top for good measure.  Shuttled between Italy and New York, the book details Fox's relationship with her parents (who had a volatile marriage, to put it mildly), her growing up much too fast, running the streets of New York, an abusive relationship with a drug dealer, her own drug habit, her partying, her work as a dominatrix, her relationship with a sugar daddy, her own trips to jail and psychiatric hospitals, and finally her modelling and acting careers.  If you want some rubber-necking sleaze, this is it.  But it's also well-written with an impeccable sense of place. I can't say I'm now a Julia Fox fan per se, but she can write - and I hope she continues to do so.

Final Grade = B+

When I first heard that Britney Spears was writing a memoir I knew it was going to be a BIG - which doesn't make me particularly smart, just not totally dense. I put myself on a stupid long library wait list and scored a "skip the line" copy on Friday. By Saturday I was finished.

I highly recommend consuming The Woman In Me via audiobook.  Much hay has been made over Michelle Williams' impersonations of Justin Timberlake and Mariah Carey, but it's her ability to convey the emotional vulnerability and rage of Britney's story that steal the show. Getting her to read this was not only genius, but a triumph.

I'll be frank, this isn't a particularly well-written memoir. The early portion, detailing Britney's childhood and rise to fame, feels very paint by numbers (I did this, then this happened, so on and so forth).  The main course doesn't arrive until the Timberlake break-up and her marriage to Kevin Federline.  Look, a lot has been made about Timberlake being a douche (which really - people are surprised by this?) and on the outside looking in I think most of us knew Federline's game early on - but I walked away truly understanding why Britney allowed herself to get sucked in by these two leeches.  Bless her heart, she's a people-pleasing nice Southern girl who had terrible examples at home.  The kind of girl who wanted to perform and make people happy.  The kind of girl who wrote thank-you notes and called adults (regardless of their age) "sir" and "ma'am." The kind of girl who took all those good Southern manner lessons to heart.  

She didn't stand a chance.

On top of all that, throw in the rise of the paparazzi, the Internet gossip machine and having 2 babies in 2 years? Maybe if she'd been more of an ice queen like Madonna - then maybe things would have spun out differently. But here was a young woman drowning and instead of throwing her a life preserver, a safe haven, the people around her were tossing chum into the water for the sharks.

Her account of the conservatorship is jaw-dropping and horrifying. Her words show a vulnerability and rage in these chapters that is breathtaking.  Again, is it well written? Not really. Quite frankly, I've read better (see Fox's memoir above). But there's a viscerally raw honesty in Britney's words, coupled with Williams' reading, that is impossible to ignore or dismiss.  

It's a slim book (only 6 hours on audio), but it packs a wallop.  I hope it's the first step in many of Britney taking her life back and making no apologies, to or for anyone, ever again.  Live your best damn life girl.

Final Grade = A


azteclady said...

The first one is definitely not my thing--I believe you that it's well written, but I read far too many exploitation-disguised-as-morality-tale books that read a lot like this lady's life back when I was an impressionable 14-15-16 year old, and I have never recovered.

I hope she writes something else, so I can try her work.

On Britney: they threw her to the sharks after they had cut her open in a thousand places, then they dragged her through the water on the promise of a lifeline that would never come. It enrages me to know how many people are abused under conservatorship in the U.S., without the visibility that eventually got Britney her freedom. And also: both Timberlake and Federline should burn in the same eternal hell as Britney's parents.

Wendy said...

AL: My "like" of the Fox memoir is really hard to articulate. She never paints herself as a victim and certainly she made some jaw-dropping choices. But there's more than a bit of trauma there to be unpacked. I walked away from that book thinking she'd be interesting to have a conversation with but also that she scared me more than a little 😂.

On the other hand, Britney comes off like a girl who'd love to hang out with. Have goofy fun with. Camp out on her sofa and watch cheesy rom-coms with. I also felt incredibly sorry for her because her ability to open herself up to people, to TRUST people, has been severely shattered. To a certain extent I think of her like I think of Frances Cobain. After everything they've been through, I just want them to be happy - whatever that looks like for them. They don't owe anybody a single damn thing.

azteclady said...

Fox: YES, scarred is the word.

Britney: god, yes; the world needs to just let them be. (I have this feeling also of Angelina Jolie and other people whose lives have never been truly theirs, or private)