HOW can one not be curious about a book if you know the author received an advance of $15 million (about R280 million) for it, and that sales stand at 3.5 million copies within weeks of its release?
The author is Britney Spears, the book is The Woman In Me — and yes, by my calculation, sales have long since recouped the advance and Spears's royalty check is going to be astronomical.
But is this a good memoir? That's a sobering question to answer. My heart goes out to Sam Lansky, the journalist who is the ghostwriter of The Woman In Me. He gave Spears a voice and made sure that nowhere in the book was there any indication that he was involved in it. I think I know why.
The interviews/conversations he had with Spears must have been gruelling. She is not strong on dates, but at least some kind of framework is indicated. That's the bright part of the book. The rest is vague. Spears doesn't like to name names. If you want to know who the swines were in her life, you should read her sister Jamie Lynn Spears's Things I Should Have Said. If you want to know about the demons that bruised her soul, you should google to learn that they are bipolarity and the aftermath of postpartum depression.
As for Spears herself, everything is other people's fault. Her father's and mother's, her sister's and family's, all the boyfriends and a whole host of human parasites. What Lansky does get right, among all the vagueness, is bringing it home to us that we're dealing with a spoiled brat here, a deceptively superficial American celeb whose career has been orchestrated by her mother (and alcoholic father) from the age of five. She undeniably has lots of talent and, of course, the looks, but she also had luck on her side and an incredible flair for choosing the right music for the right time.
And the stories about the drugs? She admits to being addicted to Adderall — an amphetamine usually prescribed for overactive children. There were plenty of drugs wherever she found herself, but she assures us that she didn't actually like any of them. Smart, Sam Lansky, smart. There's only one way to know that you don't like something, and that's to thoroughly try it.
It must be weird to live in the kind of haze Spears finds herself in. She's a multi-millionaire thanks to sales of her music — and some of her 24 perfumes with Elizabeth Arden (with great names like Curious, Sunset Fantasy and Cosmic Radiance) and her ranges of women's underwear made of linen. But you won't learn anything about it in The Woman In Me.
The book is all about how she ended up in a position where her father took control of her life and affairs, and about how she was ultimately delivered from it. Sans the names of the judges, lawyers, managers and backstabbers involved. Brenda Penny, the judge who finally had the wisdom to put an end to the bondage Spears found herself in, will search in vain for her name in the book.
So, The Woman In Me is not a good memoir. Spears's fans might enjoy it. But I struggle to get serious about a person who feels life owes her something when she already has everything. It's as if the woman can't focus on her biggest problem. Possibly Lansky did try to bring her to the understanding that it would make more sense to write about her bipolarity. She certainly didn't take any notice.
The fact that the book is so successful surely makes the entire publishing industry squirm about the meta-parasitism.
The Woman In Me by Britney Spears was published by Simon & Schuster and costs R555 at Exclusive Books.
Love stories are my secret pleasure. I escape there when someone like Britney Spears has shredded my nerves.
This one suits me to a T. A woman caught in a senseless marriage to an American politician finds out he is cheating on her. She makes a pact with him to protect his career, then enters an even worse hell when she finds new love herself. Okay, that's not a very original story. But Regina Black writes beautifully about the slow unfolding of a new love.
Now you know — it's the inimitable pleasure of falling in love long after you thought your hormones had gone AWOL. It's not what happens in this story, but how it happens.
The Art of Scandal by Regina Black was published by Grand Central Publishing and costs R595 at Exclusive Books.
A strong dose of reality in between the fabulousness. The Hunt is set in southern Arkansas, where poverty is as abundant as dreams of wealth. In Presley, a small town, the radio station hosts a kind of treasure hunt every year — and every year someone is killed during it.
The central figure is a factory worker, Nell Holcomb, whose brother was the first murdered treasure hunter. Nell's battle against the treasure hunt, and the horrible memories of her brother's death, are a metaphor for another struggle she finds herself in — to disguise the identity of her new mistress for other factory workers. But there are other things going on as well, which is why I wouldn't advise you to read the last chapter early on. It will make sense only if you have read everything. We often find the big answers when we haven't heard the questions.
The Hunt by Kelly J Ford was published by Thomas & Mercer and costs R215 at Loot.
Reading love stories like these enticed me to tackle Nathan Hill's new novel. A satire about a couple who fall in love, establish themselves in the academic and business world, then find the soul of America.
It's a novel full of distraction. Hill's satire unmasks so many things, and one starts to see things differently. I found myself looking for pictures of Hill to see if he had broad buttocks. Because only people with broad butts could possess the insight to come up with one of the many small side stories: if you make all aeroplane seats narrower, you create a whole new market for reselling the older seats that are wide enough for large American rears. An excellent novel for those who understand the wry smile.
Wellness by Nathan Hill was published by Picador and costs R343 at Loot.
♦ VWB ♦
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