Friday, March 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Starlets


It was the best of publishing; it was the worst of publishing... 

This week we learned of two new celebrity book deals. Both deals involve former Disney starlets who became hot messes. The difference between the two is that one (Hilary Duff) just sort of went through a "Take that, Disney!" phase, whereas the other (Lindsay Lohan) is pretty much the reason the phrase "hot mess" exists. 

Now, everyone groans and rolls eyes when celebrities get book deals. And not without reason. To real writers, it's like a slap in the face, and being on the side of writers always, I have to agree with that sentiment. Celebrity memoirs are easy because even if the celebs can't write, someone will do it for them the way someone does everything else they're unable, and unwilling, to do in life. Publishers, meanwhile, pay big money for these literary equivalents of E! True Hollywood Stories because, somewhere out there, millions of people will buy them. It's gross, I know.

Lindsay's upcoming memoir is exactly why writers, and industry types, shudder in fits of disgust (and in the case of the industry: self-loathing). The life of Ms. Lohan can be summed up as thus: Talented. Beautiful. Cocaine. Rehab. Sort of Good Looking. No Panties. Anne Heche-style Lesbian. Rehab. Oh God, Why Do You Look Like That? 

And yet she feels America (nay, the world) needs to hear her story. Says Lindsay: "It's going to take a while, all my life experiences. I started writing it a year ago. There's a lot to put down, you know?" We know, Lindsay. Writing is hard.

I joined Team Lindsay when she was about six-years-old and on the underrated, and now deceased, daytime soap opera, Another World. I've been disappointed ever since, but Hilary Duff, meanwhile, just annoyed me. Sure, I wasn't young enough to really care about Lizzie McGuire by the time she came on the scene, but I still appreciated whatever Lindsay, and her awesome red hair, was doing. 

So, when I saw that Hilary Duff was signing with Simon & Schuster to publish a YA series, I thought it was a case of another bored celebrity thinking, "Oh hey, children's books are easy, right? I'll do that!" (I'm looking at you, Madonna!). Imagine my shock when I read that her upcoming series actually sounded pretty solid, and that she was working on a nonfiction book about children of divorced parents.

Says Hilary: "I've always loved the escape of a great book, especially one that features a strong, inspiring female character you feel you really understand." 

Wait. I have no snarky comeback to that.  She sounds intelligent, articulate, and excited about getting young people to read. How dare you pleasantly surprise me, Ms. Duff?

I like being proved wrong (sometimes) because I tend to be pretty steadfast in my opinions, and there is a lesson to be learned here: not all celebrity book deals are created equal. If you can call "celebrity books" a genre, then like any genre that gets tiresome after a while (cough:vampireszombiesJaneAusten:cough), there still can be a few that slip by and feel OK (cough:AbrahamLincolnVampireHunter:cough). 

Or put more simply: It is a far, far better thing that Hilary does, than Lindsay has ever done; it is a far, far better book that will be published than Lindsay has ever known.

4 comments:

  1. I'm glad you explained Hilary Duff's book deal. I was all set to view that one with the same gimlet eye as Lindsay Lohan's biography. How old is she anyway? A life story at 26? Talk about hubris.

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  2. it gets worse, Gale. She's only 23!

    by the way, LOVE the phrase "gimlet eye" :)

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  3. Great post, Sarah! Astute observations and it cracked me right up to boot. :o)

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  4. Not to take anything away from Hillary, but there are probably at least a couple of aspiring authors who are at the same stage of life as her and just as or more talented.

    A major publisher is unlikely to sign them on for a full YA series without waiting to see how the first book sells. Being assured of having their non-fiction book picked up as well would be a small miracle.

    Hillary may be an awesome writer, but she is jumping the line. Is it fair? No, but that's the way this society rolls.

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