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It is hard to quantify the impact of ‘role-model’ celebrities on the acceptance and uptake of genetic testing and bio-literacy, but it is surely significant. Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress, Brad Pitt’s other half, mother, humanitarian, and now a “DNA celebrity”. She propelled the topic of familial breast cancer, female prophylactic surgery, and DNA testing to the fore.
Can a fashion retailer take a photograph of a celebrity, print it on a t-shirt and sell it without the celebrity’s approval? Yes, but sometimes no – not when the retailer has previously gone out of its way to draw a connection between its products and that celebrity, in this case Robyn Fenty, aka Rihanna. How did this begin?
After what feels like a year's worth of buzz, publicity, predictions, and celebrity gossip, the 87th Academy Award ceremony is upon us. I dug into the entries available in the alphabetized categories of The Dictionary of Film Studies-- and added some of my own trivia -- to highlight 26 key concepts in the elements of cinema and the history surrounding the Oscars.
I’ve just become Ireland’s first Patron of Reading. Trinity Comprehensive School, Ballymun, is a north Dublin school in an area which was, in the past, a byword for deprivation. In recent years, Ballymun has been the subject of a huge regeneration programme, and it’s a place where I have been welcomed since I did my very first school visit there four years ago.
This was drawn by the principal, Ms Fran Neary.
where it all started
In 2011, my first novel, Taking Flight, had just come out, and I’d only done a few local visits in Belfast schools. I was a fulltime teacher so I wasn’t nervous about talking to teenagers, but when the invitation from Trinity Comprehensive came in, it felt different. It was the first time I realised that readers outside Northern Ireland would connect with my characters. Joe Kelly, Trinity’s wonderful librarian, assured me that his pupils had liked Taking Flight‘because it seemed so real to them.’ That was the first of many visits to the school. I’ve done lots of talks and workshops in the library which is, like all good school libraries, central to the school, promoting literacy in its widest sense. I think I kept being invited back because I’m unpretentious and realistic. Earlier this year Joe and I decided to formalise the relationship by designating me Trinity’s Patron of Reading. I’m sure readers of this blog are familiar with the PoR scheme. It’s an excellent way for schools to connect with writers, and for writers to connect with readers. When I attended a ceremony in Trinity last month to mark becoming its Patron, one of the things I promised to do was to use my December ABBA post to celebrate being Ireland’s first PoR.
me on a school visit -- unglamorous but real
In the last week, however, my thoughts have also been exercised by the furore over ghost-writing, transparency, and celebrity culture. There’s been a lot of nonsense in the media, as well as a lot of good common sense – not least here on ABBA: thank you, Keren David.
How does this link with the PoR scheme, and with school visits in general? I think the most important thing about authors visiting schools is that they make things real for the pupils. As a child, I had little concept of my favourite writers as actual people. The books just sort of appeared in the library, as if by magic, though I gleaned every little snippet of biographical information I could from the dust flap. When I wrote to Antonia Forest and she wrote back it felt like the most exciting thing that had ever happened anyone – to have a letter written by the same hand that had written the Marlow novels. (And I should point out that I was 23 and a PhD student at the time.)
the book that drove me mad
What I always emphasise on school visits is that writing is a process, and often a fairly torturous one. I don’t pretend to write quickly and easily. I show the pupils the whole journey of a novel, from notebooks with rough planning, through printed-out and much scribbled over drafts, to the final book. I’m not precious – I tell them about the times when it’s been hard; I show them a six-page critique of an early draft of Taking Flight, and point out that there is a short paragraph of ‘Positives’ followed by five and half pages of ‘Issues to Consider’. I tell them about going to an editorial meeting to discuss Still Falling, and how my editors spent five minutes telling me what they liked about the novel and 55 minutes telling me what wasn’t working.
I’m not trying to put kids off. I always emphasise that making things up is magical, and seeing your ideas develop into actual stories that people read is the best thing in the world. But I do let them see that it involves a lot of hard work.
Nowadays I think that’s even more important. I once shared a platform with two children who had self-published. It was a ridiculous, uncomfortable event: there I was talking about hard work and rejection and editing and how hard it is to get published, and there were these two little pre-teen moppets with their shiny books. The primary school audience, who won’t have known the difference between self-publishing and commercial publishing, probably thought I was some kind of slow learner. But I least I told them the truth.
Honesty. I think we need more of it. I’m so proud to be Ireland’s first Patron of Reading, and I intend to keep on being honest about writing as a magical, but difficult craft.
I’m lucky enough to live close to Hay on Wye, it’s my destination of choice on a wet Sunday afternoon. The bookshops go on forever, and there are one or two decent places to eat, not something that can be said of many small Welsh towns. I’m a food snob, and a book snob, and a snob in general, so when the festival comes around, I like to make sure everyone I know who tells me they intend to go that I prefer Hay when it’s quieter, when I have the place to myself.
After all, most people who attend the festival are not there because of a hunger for all things literary. What they want more than anything else is to see, and if possible talk to, a celebrity. This doesn’t interest me at all. If I go, I'm there out of sheer intellectual curiosity.
Yesterday, however, after tramping through heavy rain from the car park in town to the main festival site, one end of Hay to the other, and thankfully having seen not one celebrity, I found a quiet bar, bought a hideously expensive pint and slumped myself in a sofa. I’d arranged to meet friends there, but they were scattered about the site, and none of them genuinely interested in books (unless you include ones by Alan Titchmarsh) so I had a few minutes to plan my intellectual journey for the day. I don’t know about you, but when I attend things like this I always have to have a focus – whether it’s poetry, or fiction, or history, I have to prepare myself, consider in advance what perspective I intend to take in order that I’m not thrown in any direction, and end up completely adrift on a brown sea of aimless hogwash. (Hay is muddy, remember).
And then Adrian Edmondson walked into the bar, in wellies, and he stood right next to me and I could actually hear him talking.
Those few minutes were very difficult for me, you understand. I was suddenly sucked under by just the sort of empty headed nonsense I had hoped to avoid. I remember, ten years ago, having a pee next to Adrian Edmondson in the toilets at Leigh Delamare services. He was more famous then. I didn’t speak to him on that particular occasion, of course. It would have been very inappropriate, but here, in a bar, well, this was a different matter.
I found I couldn't help myself from continually glancing up at him. Not because I am in awe of him in any way, but more likely because I was considering how his comedy is in an intellectual tradition that follows Beckett and Pinter, and I was thinking I could go up and ask him something along these lines but decided against it because he might think I was a tosser.
After Edmondson left the bar (he drank two pints when I had managed just one) I decided I would go and look for my friends so I could just mention, in passing, that I had just seen a very famous comedian, and making sure I shoehorned Beckett and Pinter into the same garbled sentence so I could impress upon them that I was interested in Edmondson from a cultural standpoint and really his fame was of no interest to me. He’s just a bloke like other blokes, he drinks beer and uses the urinal (I have witnessed both, remember).
So I hurried out of the bar, fighting against a tide of bodies making their way to some ‘talk’ or other. I pushed through the middle class masses wondering why it is that they feel this need to see someone talk. It’s as ridiculous as listening to someone paint. Why go all the way to Hay to see people talk? Similar talks are all over the internet. If you are truly interested in what these people have to say, then just stay at home and watch the videos on youtube. Or better still, read their books. It’s all very hollow, isn’t it?
And then I saw the great Australian novelist Tim Winton, and wasn’t that Martha Kearney just behind him? And what the hell is John Bercow doing here and, suddenly, looming out of the light like a great galleon emerging from fog, there is Stephen Fry, right there, in front of me, smiling, avuncular, our national treasure. He was being ushered towards the new signing area next to the bookshop, nodding, his massive brain working away.
Lower status celebs (like Bercow) sign books in the main shop, but those of bigger stature, like Fry, sit in a sort of corridor next to the shop, so fawning admirers can line up and wait their turn for a few seconds of unselfconscious, fully paid, staring.
I am above all this, of course, and when I eventually meet my friends, I quickly steer the conversation to the Theatre of the Absurd and just drop in the fact I had been in a bar with Adrian Edmondson, and wasn’t it pathetic that grown men and women stare and whisper, and that I’d also seen Stephen Fry.
One of my friends, Gary, then mentioned that he had a ticket to see Fry talking about Shakespeare. Gary has never seen a Shakespeare play in his life. So why, I wondered, was he so keen to hear what Fry had to say about the bard? I have all the BBC Shakespeare on DVD, as well as one or two of the Branaghs. I'm serious about my Shakespeare, not like Gary, who's just a dilettante. But off he went, ticket clasped in his hand, his eyes glazed over in expectation. Fool.
Later that day I made my way back to the car park in the town, still curious as to true nature of the festival. What is this desire human beings have to be close to famous people, who, just because they choose to write, or perform, are given inordinate status? I was thinking this, and as I entered the car park, much emptier than it was earlier on, there walking towards me was Blackadder himself, Rowan Atkinson.
I tried not to stare, but there was nobody about, no one could see me, so it didn’t matter, and Atkinson had his eyes on the tarmac, obviously keen not to meet my gaze, so I had a big long look. He isn’t as tall as I expected. Not much between him and Bercow.
Anyway, I got into my car, and starting the engine felt a trifle disappointed that there was no one I could tell about my encounter with a superstar. I’m above all that anyway, so decided to keep it to myself.
I’ve written before on this blog that I don’t have many pet peeves. It’s true. I really don’t. Perhaps I should qualify what I mean though. For there are some things that I hate with the passion of a lambada dancer. But that’s different than having peeves. Peeves are annoyances. Hate is at once emotional and, in my case, completely rational. It’s about seeing something that’s throwing the world off its axis and knowing you must condemn it for the travesty that it is. I will list some things that I hate here:
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg: Look at this smug son-of-a-farmer. He lands a plane in the Hudson River and they book him on Oprah and 60 Minutes. Next thing you know, they’ll be knighting Toonces the Driving Cat for swerving off a friggin cliff. That’s right. Sully ain’t no better than Toonces. I mean, from where I stand, any pilot who can’t land his plane on a runway is a fascist, socialist, French food-eating, soccer-loving kamikaze! You can, and you should, quote me on that. Want a hero? Try John Travolta. Not only was he the yin to Kirstie Alley’s yang in all those Look Who’s Talking movies, but he also never lands his planes on rivers. Case in point.
Sustainable Agriculture: Cucumbers are like albino rhinos. When I buy a one, I’d like to know that there ain’t any others like it. It’s the last of its line. So, I would hope that after my cucumber has been plucked from its cucumber bush, the entire plant is torched, the soil is drenched with kerosene, and some overalls-clad hillbilly is tossing his corncob pipe down and banjo plucking the inferno into the night. An extreme view? Not if you’ve ever suffered the humiliation of showing up at The International Cucumber Festival in Suzdal to find that some woman also has a kirby shaped like a duck.
Orphans: I’m not talking the Dickens variety or those Slumdog Millionaire tots, though I’m certainly not big fans of their pickpocketing, gameshow-winning ways. What I’m talking about are the ones who are always hanging out at the hotspots with Sandra Bullock and Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Clearly all they want to do is wink and shoot finger-guns at the paparazzi, then parlay the TMZ coverage into a book deal and a perfume line. I’ve had a hard enough time getting department stores to even sniff Dusky, A Fragrance by Aaron Starmer, now I got some 4-year-old Javanese celebutante to compete with for shelf space! It’s enough to make a man cancel his subscription to OK! Magazine.
As Michael already pointed out, it’s awfully quiet out there this week, so I was pleased to stumble across this piece at The Millions on books penned by celebs. If I had a copy of Courtney Thorne-Smith’s novel, I feel like my day might be much more fun. Have none of the 90210 gang been struck by the literary muse? Surely they wouldn’t go down without a fight to the likes of Melrose Place. Luke Perry and his sideburns could write an excellent western, no?
I also really loved learning that Katie Price has a ghostwriter because she doesn’t have time to write the books herself. Yes, time. That’s the only thing standing between you and the Booker, Katie. But hey, anything that keeps her in the spotlight is OK by me, because I find British celeb culture totally fascinating, and she’s by far my favorite tabloid staple.
As for me, I think I’ll do myself the favor of not reading novels, poetry, and short stories written (or “written”) by celebrities I actually like. (Needless to say, I’m also skipping the ones by the celebs I can’t stand.) It might be awfully hard to respect someone who feels “Speak to me not of food, for I am soon to die” is reasonable dialogue, even if he’s brilliant in The French Connection.
In the wake of @Charlie Sheen taking over Twitter and apparently #winning, Lindsay Lohan and the case of the missing jewels, and the myriad of other famous folks whose lives have gone awry it got me thinking about a different kind of celebrity. The kind that deserves every ounce of their popularity and stature.
So instead of sticking your tots in front of the mindless updates that Extra gives us, share with them some deserving celebs! The trees featured in this book have earned their title for their global fame and significance. Both in fact and in legend, these fascinating trees remind us not only how much pleasure trees bring, but what they can tell us about history.
The Royal Wedding is days away and every detail – from the regal breakfast to the honeymoon – is under scrutiny. But we think there’s only one thing that really matters: the dress. So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to select a few options for Miss Kate. In the off-chance she turns us down, we’ve paired up other celebrity brides-to-be with these charming gowns. Pictures and historical facts courtesy of The Berg Fashion Library.
Artist/Maker: Emenson, ca. 1970
We hope that “Kate the Great” soars in her new role as princess, and she literally can, with
these wing-like sleeves and a 188 cm long cape, eh train, 188 cm longtrain. Back-up celebrity: If Kate vetos, we recommend this one for Natalie
Portman (she was after all, a much better white swan).
Artist/Maker: Created for the Corvin Department Store in 1943 (Hungary)
We think the white georgette embroidered apron is a nice way for Kate to let the
people of England know she will never forget her “humble” roots. Back-up celebrity: Jessica Simpson (we hear she’s on the lookout for a
low-cut dress, which for the 40s this was).
Artist/Maker: Victor Edelstein, 1987 (Great Britain) Newsweek recently stated: “In a world gone to hell – thank God, a wedding.”
We couldn’t agree more. This a gift to the world, so lets put a bow on it (see: enormous bow above). Back-up celebrity: Amy Adams (lest we forget her princess flair).
February 13, 2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the first publication of A Wrinkle in Time. On February 11, 2012 the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group is hosting a special anniversary celebration at Symphony Space in New York City with readings, performances, and celebrity guests, including Rebecca Stead, author of When You Reach Me, Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, R. L. Stein, author of the Goosebumps series, and Jane Curtin, who appeared in the television show 3rd Rock from the Sun.
if you’d like to host a party of your own in your school or library. We will also be archiving the show so that it can be viewed at any time. We expect that the show will be available in March.
If you would like to host a Wrinkle in Time celebration in your classroom or library, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to order free 50th Anniversary posters and bookmarks while supplies last. Be sure to send us any photos of your celebration and we will post them on our Wrinkle in Time Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wrinkleintime.
David Ritz has had a successful ghostwriting career, collaborating with everyone from Ray Charles to Joe Perry, and written quite a few novels too. In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s Hey, How’d You Do That? series, the prolific writer tells how he landed some of his biggest clients, and how gives tips for aspiring ghostwriters.
“When I first met Ray Charles, I didn’t know about ghostwriting; I was just going to do a biography of him,” Ritz recalled. “And then his agent asked me, ‘Which book would you be more interested in reading: a book about Ray Charles written by an egghead or a book written in his own voice?’ I told him that I would much rather read the book written in his own voice, and he told me, ‘You should write the book you would want to read, not the one you believe you should write.’ And that was a big turning point for me.”
Who’s Who (and its sister publication, Who Was Who) has traditionally included entries for the cream of British society, and in this festive season, the Who’s Who team have come up with a theoretical dinner party where key people from all areas of life, alive and dead, could come together to solve the world’s problems.
Who’s Who is the essential directory of the noteworthy and influential in every area of public life, published worldwide, and written by the entrants themselves. Who’s Who 2013 includes autobiographical information on over 33,000 influential people from all walks of life. The 165th edition includes a foreword by Arianna Huffington on ways technology is rapidly transforming the media.
I know someone who had dinner with Andre. An friend of mine, through some art world connections, found himself across the table from the man, chatting between mouthfuls of pasta or sushi or some such. My apologies if this bombshell has caused you to drop your mug of coffee or to fall down a well, IPhone in hand, mouth agape. It is shocking, but I assure you it’s true.
If you aren’t shocked, it’s only because you’re thinking, “Andre? Andre Agassi?” Heavens no. This wasn’t some binge of crystal meth and Oedipal rants. “Andre the Giant, then?” Sadly, that glandular wonder is dead, and even if he was alive, I suspect a dinner with Andre the Giant would involve massive turkey legs and troughs of gravy as opposed to the stimulating discussions for which the Andre I refer to is famous. “And which Andre, pray tell, is that?”
As much as people were baffled that this could be a movie, there were critics such as Roger Ebert, and plenty of turtle-necked philosophy majors, who ate the junk up. I saw it when I was green and impressionable and while I can say it wasn’t an entire bore, I definitely didn’t buy into it. Just like I didn’t buy into Waking Life or I Heart Huckabees or similar exercises in navel-gazing cinematic blather. That said, should I ever be invited to a dinner with theatre stalwart Andre Gregory, I would be honored and humbled. Because it is the equivalent of winning the culinary/conversation lottery.
Really, it is. Think about it.
Let’s say Andre eats dinner every day, a safe assumption. Let’s also say he eats at home most often, but regularly goes out with his wife or friends, and occasionally dines at art openings and parties and business functions. From this, we can make a generous guess and assume that, on average, Andre eats dinner with a person he has never met once every five days. Now you can’t count any person who happens to be in the room while he cuts a t-bone. Having a conversation with Andre is essential to having dinner with him. So all things told, for each year of his life, Andre has had about 73 new dining companions. It’s been almost 30 years since the film. In that time, it multiplies to 2,190 folks.
I try to keep up with the Bieber-stream media. You see what I did there? Rather than writing “mainstream” or even “lamestream,” I went with “Bieber-stream.” It’s something I do here. Keep folks on their toes. Comment on culture in clever ways. Thank me by buying a book.
In any case, the Justin Bieber-slanting CBS News has asked the kids of New Zealand (The Kiwiettes, if you will) to chill the hell out. Bieber Fever has reached George Romero-like levels, resulting in a frightening mob scene at the Auckland Airport, and Justin’s “mama” has suffered as a result. I want to think the best of our very distant neighbors to the southwest (or southeast should you decide to fly Air Emirates), so I’m a skeptic. I smell a PR person behind this. And if not that, then I smell Germans. Because as anyone who has set their watch to NZST will tell you, if you want meet someone from Munich, go to the Auckland Airport. I swear, it’s like Paris in 1942.
Of course, this is from a tourist’s perspective. I spent 3 months in New Zealand a couple years back. My wife and I bought a cheap car, and filled the trunk with camping equipment and drove down every road and hiked in as many corners of that lovely little country as we could and slept in huts and yards and hostels and on beaches. We met plenty of locals, very few Americans, and a shocking number of Klauses and Ilsas. We ran into one intrepid young Bavarian on two separate occasions: once while doing a jigsaw puzzle in a headlamp-lit hut along the Milford Track; once along the steaming, sulfurous moonscape of the Tongariro Circuit. He (and every other German we met) spoke flawless English and was a perfectly lovely fellow, so I don’t mean to disparage an entire people. I’m just intrigued by the disproportion. The French and Spanish and English and Italian combined didn’t even have half the representation.
I’m sure if I actually lived and worked in New Zealand, I’d shrug this German infiltration off as some backpacker urban legend. But I assure you it’s true, and I think it has resulted in a Bieber bumrush. Germans get a bad rap for their taste in music. So perhaps a band of backpackers were trying to regain some cred. Perhaps they weren’t fans at all, but musical freedom fighters trying to rid the world of a devastating future filled with soulless bubble-gum pop. Perhaps Bieber is lucky to have gotten out with his reputation intact. Have you ever read The Dead Zone?
It seems far-fetched until you watch the following clip. It’s taken from an interview in New Zealand shortly after the airport fiasco. Cunning as ever, Bieber strikes back by denying that the German language even exists. “I don’t know that means. We don’t say that in America,” he quips. It’s a brassy move, and will spark numerous conspiracy theories. I expect Glenn Beck to break it d
In case you missed it, Bill Murray stopped by the construction site for Poet’s House last week to treat workers to the first poetry reading at the new location. And I thought my love for Bill could not grow deeper.
I must admit that I’d be the first person here to IM my colleagues with “Reeeeeally?” followed by the latest celeb memoir listing from Pub Marketplace. In general, the trend irks me, not because it’s taking the room of other, better books, but because I simply don’t understand why there’s a market for any random has-beens to get paid to talk about their mostly mundane lives. Comedians and other performers known for their ability to string words together are fine with me, and occasionally someone’s life is spectacularly weird, but once upon a time sitcom actresses with the same story as every other memoir on the shelf just boggle my mind. And yet people care. They care in droves. It’s a market I simply cannot comprehend.
Until now, that is. I’m beginning to suspect my confusion is a product of age. Celeb memoirs have, until recently, by and large been written by people who barely register as famous to me and many of my contemporaries. (Which is probably for the best, since you should live at least a reasonable share of a life before writing about it.) Before Valerie Bertinelli became a bestselling author, I knew only that she’d been on a sitcom that happened not to be in my steady childhood diet of crappy TV and that she’d been a spokesperson for a weight loss company. Naturally, I couldn’t have been bothered to read her memoir on the grounds that she’s famous. And those people who were truly famous to me who happened to have book deals—Tori Spelling, for example—didn’t come along so often that the odds were in favor of my actually caring they existed.
But this changes everything. Sam Seaborn AND Punky Brewster publishing memoirs in the same year! This is the greatest celebrity memoir news of all time. I was genuinely disappointed when Rob Lowe canceled his first book deal. 13-year-old Lauren was a devoted fan of many an 80s movie, but St. Elmo’s Fire was by far at the top of the list. Not to mention that The West Wing is the best TV show of all time, and anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken. Punky Brewster was my childhood hero (and Halloween costume at least twice). For probably the first time, the authors of celebrity memoirs actually star in my DVD collection.
I’m still not sure I’m going to read their memoirs, I must admit. I suspect I know the more interesting parts of both their back stories, and much as I get the impression both are at least reasonably intelligent, I’m not really that eager to hear their lives in their own words. (If Rob Lowe’s book features a photo insert, I’ll at least browse it at the bookstore, however, because he’s awfully pretty, even in St. Elmo’s Fire, where he looks kind of ridiculous.)
Whose celeb memoir would I actually read? Well, I got Colin Ferguson’s as a gift for Christmas, and it’s on my to-read pile, because that man is a genius. I plan, eventually, to get around to Kathy Griffin’s. And I’ve been meaning to pick up Stephen Fry’s. Aaron Sorkin’s, which must come to pass eventually, definitely. But it’s harder for those who are famous for something other than their ability to express their thoughts. Maybe if Johnny Depp wrote one, because he seems like an interesting and intelligent guy.
What about you guys? Read any celebrity memoirs that are genuinely more interesting than a cursory glance at the author’s Wikipedia page? (Seriously, click that--he should write a second memoir, covering the later, wackier years.) And who hasn’t written one who really should?