Biographies are fascinating, and the ones I've read can be divided into two pretty rough camps: the ones that are written either by a professional writer (Tina Fey's excellent Bossypants comes to mind) or with a professional writer's help, and the ones where nobody apparently dared to suggest edits or hire a good ghost writer and let the personality just ramble on.
The latter cases are especially sad when there is an important story to tell. Bob Santos's Hum Bows, Not Hot Dogs is about this superman of a community organizer's amazing struggles and achievements in Seattle's International District, but it has so many inappropriately placed dad jokes and jumping from one thing to another that the actual fascinating story within disappears in the noise. It's a tiny book but it took me forever to read, because I kept on losing the plot.
Coreyography had a similar feel to it. I mean, we start off with a pun when the book itself is frigging bleak, right?
Feldman set out to write this book to expose the child abuse many child stars are subjected to in Hollywood. The abuse was most likely the main culprit of his good friend Corey Haim's spiraling into drugs and eventual early death. That's a brave story to come forward with. Not only that, Feldman is at the same time out to clear Michael Jackson's name--the man who was publicly accused of child molestation while the Hollywood big shots working with children have been getting away with it. This is a big deal.
There's just something about the way the book is structured and written that I kept on being distracted by how things were told instead of what I was told. It also felt like there were either two writers hired to help out with this book, or that a copy editor didn't make or wasn't allowed to make other changes beyond typos and grammar and let the book bounce from style to style (although the number of "he gave Ron and I a call..." structures made me wonder if a copy editor was involved at all).
For a few chapters, Feldman's voice waxes super poetic in present tense about his childhood and early acting years, and I think, This sounds so fake for speaking from a kid's perspective. This is how Chapter 1 begins:
I am three years old, sitting at the small round breakfast table in our tiny kitchen, eyeing a half-open box of cereal. There's a toy surprise buried somewhere inside, and I'm itching for it. I bounce my feet impatiently atop the wooden rung of my chair, feel a cold dribble of milk slip across my lip and down my chin. As consumed as I am by that prize, however, I sense that there is something different, something even more exciting, about today. It's still early morning in the San Fernando Valley--the sun is streaming through the little stained glass window above the door frame, casting a rainbow of shadows across the linoleum floor of the foyer--but the whole house is already buzzing with energy.
In short, this is describing a kid drooling at the breakfast table and picking up on the excited energy in the household, but it's made ridiculously poetic.
In similar purple prose bits he refers to his friend Corey Haim as "Corey." Then suddenly something changes, and the style becomes not only more straight-forward and punchy, but Feldman begins to refer to his friend exclusively as "Haim"--but only for one chapter. I'd understand the distancing if that was sought, but this is at a point where they had just reunited after years of not seeing each other. If anything, this would be the time for using the first name.
It's as if the majority of the book was inspired by Cormac McCarthy, trying to find machismo poetry in a kid reaching out for a bowl of cereal or a drug-addled street fight, and the latter chapters are where we actually hear a genuine voice and its urgency in telling this important story. Either would have been fine for consistency, really.
And now I feel crappy about being so critical: it's someone pouring his heart out onto paper, for crying out loud, talking about being molested, consumed in a world of drugs. I'm going back to my Wodehouse to be cheered up again and I'll leave biographies and memoirs alone because they're so painful to read... at least for a while. (But I did realize I've never read Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher, which is almost unforgivable considering the Star Wars nerdery I've exposed myself to since the age of nine).
Surprisingly, this celebrity memoir turned out to be more thought-provoking than I imagined, but perhaps not in the way the author himself intended.
Language professional by day; knitter and crocheter by night. The rest of the time on buses and waiting rooms in Seattle is spent reading, hopefully with a good beverage nearby.
I often skip synopses in this blog and instead focus on the elements that got me hooked on a story or turned me away from it. My reading habits have only two absolutes, and I'm doing my best to make them more negotiable: I love unreliable narrators; cannot stand British school stories.
Comments and recommendations are encouraged to knock me out of my reading comfort zones.
If you don't like to leave a comment in this public blog, feel free to send recommendations to matildareadsblog at gmail dot com