Biographies have never really been my thing. With a few notable exceptions (a tome about Alicia Markova that I treasured through my early teens, Muriel Spark’s Curriculum Vitae for example) it’s just not a genre that particularly grabs me. I’m not sure why, seeing as hearing people’s ‘real’ stories is undeniably fascinating, but when I have the choice of a novel or a bio I’m certain to choose the novel every time.
The auto/biography markets have spawned a related genre that I don’t feel bad for disliking at all though – in fact I feel duty bound to hate it – the cringe-worthy phenomenon of the modern celebrity memoir.
It’s true enough that some celebrities may have fascinating lives, and it’s possible that I would find delving into one an edifying experience, but Katie Price as the UKs bestseller for christsake? How many memoirs has she had out and how old is she? Not old enough for 3 bloody books. But worse than that, much worse, is the fact she doesn’t even write them: although, funnily enough, that hasn’t damaged her ‘reputation’ as a novelist at all.
Then there’s Kerry Katona, who is famous for unfathomable reasons, Britney Spears’ money grabbing mother and teen starlet Miley Cirus, all confident that they have something relevant to say.
So I took the worst examples I could think of off the top of my head, and I know it’s not representative of the massive range of quality memoirs out there, but to me they provide proof of the terrifying influx of memoirs from people who have done nothing memorable. And in these days of recession, when publishers obviously want to put their money on a sure bet – like a celeb endorsed tome – I fear it’s a trashy-tornado that’s far from blowing itself out.
There’s big money in celebrity memoirs. I don’t deny it. And I understand why people want to sneak a peek into the lives of the people they admire and want to emulate. Or, alternatively, hope to root around in a shining star’s murky past as validation that their own lives aren’t so miserable. But I can’t bring myself to mention the words celebrity memoir with a sneer in my voice.
The thing I’m worried about is the idea that this celeb-driven-drivel will somehow taint the biography and memoirs genres as a whole, because there are plenty worth admiring out there. By people who can, you know, actually write. Or at least choose to collaborate with someone who can.