In November, I have read two new celebrity memoirs: Matthew Perry’s Friends, Lovers, and the Big, Terrible Thing and Geena Davis’s Dying of Politeness. Lest you judge me, I have also finished rereading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, a famous writer, if not a celebrity.
If either of these books were excessively mean, crude, or illiterate, I would have put them aside. Instead, they have a few virtues. First, they are not badly written, and, even better, I’m pretty sure Perry and Davis wrote them themselves. As famous people, of course, they benefit from big advances and tons of skilled editing, but, still, the authors seem to be the people pictured on the cover, not ghost writers. Perry (Chandler in the TV sitcom Friends) apparently submitted an initial 100 pages of his own writing to his agent, who encouraged him to keep writing. His editor said in an interview that he was the only celebrity memoirist she’s worked with who submitted his final manuscript on time.
Though not quite gossipy, both books include juicy inside stories. Davis, for example, rats on Bill Murray, who bullied her on the set of 1990’s Quick Change. (Davis also starred in The Accidental Tourist, Thelma and Louise, and A League of Their Own, among many other films.) She recounts several incidents of sexual abuse and harassment. Perry reveals that in 1996 he broke up with girlfriend Julia Roberts, not the other way around. This revelation isn’t ungallant. He admits that he habitually ended relationships prematurely, to avoid being dumped first. He regrets these decisions.
Both Perry and Davis are admirably self-aware and self-critical. Both of them have a mission as well. Perry believes his addiction story, with many stints in rehab, might help other addicts. And he seems to be using his current recovery to help other addicted people one on one. Davis is working with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which she founded, to lobby for gender balance in media. (Watch the excellent This Changes Everything on Netflix, which features Davis and her organization’s work.)
Both books are engrossing and easy to read (despite Perry’s harrowing addiction experiences). They’re a nice break from more arduous works. While reading them, I never felt the need to count how many pages were remaining, as I may have done with a certain lengthy Russian classic.
Have you ever wanted to write your own story? Have you started? What would you want people to know about you?