Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Good to Be the Queen, Part I

Memoir/biography is my go-to genre when I know I have significant time to mull. Good bios normally come with a generous dose of history - social, political and cultural, - as well as the invitation to read between the lines and learn something. Long car rides are perfect memoir reading opportunities.

Celebrity biography and autobiography are totally different. Of the two, I prefer the biographies. They are often written by inept researchers who deal in speculation, and Inquirer style red-herrings. Lots of drama, little substance; but the logic and black holes result in lots of laughs.

In general, I find celebrity autobiographies self serving (that's a given, isn't it?) and silly. Such is the case with the new Barbara Walters doorstop. Most impressive about this work is the plethora of tell-tale signs that this woman is powerful - untouchable...the queen! As I wend my way thorough non-sequiturs, pronoun disagreements, cutsey parentheticals, and continuous promises of "more about that later," I can only conclude that no editor was allowed to touch one word. Want some examples? Speaking of her second husband and their apartment near MOMA in NYC, she writes "I have a touching memory of him carrying me into the bedroom on our first night together. We didn't stay there too long because we were able to find another rent-controlled apartment..." . Sure, logic dictates that she talking about not staying in the apartment too long, but her grammar tells us they didn't stay in the bedroom too long.

Want more? A bit later in the book, she fills us in on how much she wanted a baby: "I cannot tell you how exhilarated I felt when I came home and my gynecologist told me that indeed I was pregnant." What? Her OB/GYN lived at her apartment?

Besides that, her transitions are abrupt and her topic subordination, awkward. For some reason, she combined her thoughts on Robert Kennedy, and Maureen O'Sullivan, one-time, ill-fated, "Today Girl." "There wasn't a eye dry on the floor, " she writes of Robert Kennedy's unity speech at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention, where his brother surely would have garnered his second run for office had he not been assassinated. This, she immediately follows with "Maureen O'Sullivan cried, too, but for a different reason. She got fired." Puzzling isn't it?

I am afraid this is going to get rather long, so more later in Part II. This topic brought so much to mind, and I got a note from Jean Feraca. You see, I have learned the fine art of pitching, learned to effectively combine ideas, mastered the smooth segue (transitions, not the upright scooters people zoom around big cities on) , and conquered the parenthetical. Thanks, Babs.