2016: 16. & 17. Two depressing memoirs

In the middle of my reading rut I took a super quick trip to the library, with my two year old, who, I am sorry to say, is so badly behaved at the library that I generally go without her.  Because of said wild-child behavior, I was only able to glance at the new books, and grabbed these two memoirs to read.  Both were super depressing, and I’m not saying it was the lady-baby’s fault, but girl, you know what you did.  

I’m in the bedroom of Judy Garland’s suite at the New York Plaza Hotel.

16. Judy + Liza + Robert + Freddie + David + Sue + Me…,  Stevie Philips

This book was moderately interesting in a history of Hollywood sort of way, but it was also totally mean-spirited, and the author comes across as a real asshole (despite the fact, or rather probably because of the fact, that she spends most of the book talking about how terrible everyone else was and how she has reached enlightenment late in life).  Philips was one of the first women to make it on the business side of Hollywood - first as a gopher for a big talent agency, then an agent, eventually a producer.  Her first gig was to basically babysit Judy Garland on her comeback tour, and later she shepharded Liza through the glowing part of her career (Cabaret, etc.).  It’s, as a said, interesting to read about a woman making it in a man’s world.  Or rather, it would be, if this particular woman wasn’t such a nasty bitch.  She is so, so cruel about Judy - like, we get it, she was a mess then, and was probably a miserable handful.  But her life was hard, and she’s dead - why do you need to tell these horrible stories (except to get a book deal)? Similarly, she is glad to tell tales out of school about Liza, about her friend Sue Menges (one of the other first female Hollywood executives), David Bowie, etc., etc.  And she is mean about them, and then seems suprised that so many of them dropped her.  And she freely admits she slept her way to the top, and she is super self absorbed in that terrible Hollywood way.  And the point of the memoir is that somehow she has now found enlightenment, and that she was a co-dependant mess, and now she has power, blah blah blah.  So, no I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like reading memoirs by self-justifying jerks. Or if  you really, really want to read mean things about the Garland women.

I begin this story in a funeral home because I once read a Philip Roth novel that begins over a grave.

Lord Fear, Lucas Mann

In this one, the author is ok (though the writing is a little pretentious), but the subject matter is sort of insufferable.  It’s a memoir about his older brother, Josh, who died of a drug overdose when Mann was in his teens.  He is now, as an adult ,trying to reconstruct who his brother was, and what his life was like.  He talks to different people, plays around with the meaning of memory, etc. etc.  I am sorry to say that I was pretty bored.  Obviously this is a very sad story, but nothing here made it any different from any similar sad story about an addict, and a mentally ill family member.  To me, the writing didn’t trandescent the ordinariness of the tragedy, and despite feeling sorry for Josh, it’s also clear that he was not a nice person, even before drugs.  Mann's worship of Josh’s misogyny is particularly jarring - it makes Mann seem like an asshole, too. (And his constant mention of his own casual drug use is baffling to me - why would you be a casual drug user when your brother died of a drug additiction? Maybe it’s because drugs are  anathema to me, but most people aren’t occasionally getting high on Vicodin as far as I know - and if you are, maybe don’t set yourself up as the normal dichotomy to your effed up sibling).  It’s a slim read, and maybe if you are super into addiction stories you would like it, but for me it was a bit of a slog.

So, hopefully onward and upward with my next books!!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017