Monday, January 22, 2018

Nonfiction | Musings of a Hollywood Mom

For my first Read Harder Challenge category, I chose the celebrity memoir because after reading some really dense Gore Vidal (more on that later), I needed something light. In selecting a book for this category, I figured there were a few ways I could go: pick a person I knew and liked, thus mostly guaranteeing enjoyment; pick someone deep, complicated, and interesting that would be impressive in dinner conversation; or pick some total fluff, like a reality star, that I cared nothing about but forced me to really branch out from what I'd normally choose.

While I toyed with the idea of selecting the fine writing of some Real Housewife of the Jersey Shore, I preserved my sanity and chose a celebrity with a slightly deeper story: Drew Barrymore.

Barrymore's Wildflower follows in the same vein as most celebrity "memoirs" these days, in that it's more a collection of essays or anecdotes—"meaningful life moments"—than a real reflection of one's life. (I mean, how much life reflection can you share when you're only 42?) In Wildflower, the actress recollects her first experience of doing laundry, living on her own at age 14. She writes odes to the people she loves—friends, husband, in-laws, children, Adam Sandler—and how their stories began. She chronicles a multi-day outward bound trek taken with her Charlie's Angels co-stars after filming wrapped, and how nature nearly got the best of her. She writes about how her three rescue dogs ushered her into a responsible adulthood and how Steven Spielberg has been an unwavering source of support since her days on the set of E.T. And of course, no celebrity "memoir" would be complete without the reflection on the life-changing do-good trip to some third-world country. (I remember Amy Poehler's feeling so forced that I nearly quit reading.)

I chose this memoir because I thought that, in the game of celebrity memoirs where every witty or popular young-ish female seems to have been given a book deal, Drew Barrymore may have something more substantial to say. Less self-indulgent. More introspective, reflective, or thought-provoking. I mean, girl's been through some stuff.

That wasn't the case. I mean, I understand not wanting to dwell on one's past, especially one so colorful that has probably been rehashed often enough when you've personally moved on. But for someone with those experiences who has so clearly learned from them and made thoughtful decisions to build a very purposeful life since, completely avoiding those topics seems like such an omission, making these words she does share seem more trivial. It seems she wants to be open, sharing the importance of some of her life's little moments. But without facing the tough moments that brought her to this current level of peace and introspection, the stories she shares end up feeling like they just skim the surface.

Ultimately, most of her recollections felt so generic, they could've been written by and about anyone. Meeting in-laws and birthing children can be monumental milestones, but I'm not reading Drew Barrymore's story for the universal experience of how having a kid changes a person; I want to read the unique stories that have built her life and made her a person worth getting this book deal. Instead, I felt like an English teacher filling the margins of a student essay with red pen critique to "dig deeper."

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