Chicken Soup for the Tabloid Soul
Ostensibly a collection of diary entries (though its always obvious that the book is written to an audience) tracking a year of romantic suffering and hobnobbing among the fringe-famous (Bobby Brown, Bill Maher, Dennis Rodman), along with the author’s attempts to handle unexpected money and freedom resulting from the wild success of her previous book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, Karrine Steffans’ The Vixen Diaries is a masterwork in its complete lack of subtext and irony. Every event and detail, from rough sex with Mike Tyson to fighting to reclaim her son from social services, is recounted with utter frankness.
The effect is dulling after only a few pages but the book goes remarkably fast, if not always all that pleasantly. It takes almost 150 pages to hit upon a sentence that makes you sit up and take notice, and that sentence is remarkable in its shock value more than its masterful construction.
Steffans can throw out statements like, “Between my nearly two-thousand dollar rent, five-hundred-dollar car payment for my 2001 Mercedes Benz C240, and child-care bills, times were tough”, or, “Between Bobby’s habit of driving my car with an open container of beer – even with my son in the backseat – and his insatiable need to get high and stay awake for days, then sleep for days, I was exhausted”, not only as if everyone here can relate to what she’s talking about, but as if she has our full emotional support.
And yet, it’s her brash isolation in the Hollywood universe and unapologetic stance that is the most appealing aspect of her voice. Her emotional development is tracked by her growing awareness that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether people like her or not. She’s been publicly exposed (willingly and otherwise) in almost all aspects of her life and suffered through a horrendously abusive pre-adult life; she’s earned her self-centeredness, if such a thing is possible. In her hands, a line like, “As I scroll through my electronic Rolodex, I am overcome by how many people in it are not intellectually stimulating,” is both ridiculous, coming from Steffans, and somehow refreshingly honest.
She’s capable, in one moment, of feeling queasy with her own good fortune as she watches a city bus drive past the car dealership where she’s preparing to buy a 2007 Mercedes Benz to replace her scratched, barely-used, 2006 model (it was shut in her security gates when she mistook that system’s remote control for the garage door opener), and in the next simply driving off in the new car and looking for sushi. “I’d soon bought yet another Mercedes. I had always wanted a convertible roadster to drive up the coast; I’d dreamed of it ever since I was a child,” she writes.
Her lesson from the day: “I was reminded to take time for myself, away from the phone calls and e-mails that invade my life. I spend long mornings and afternoons at the Four Seasons Hotel writing and sampling exotic foods and wines, learning more about them.”
It’s almost unbearable, but she balances her more mundane revelations with her belief that her status as an author can help others; “Very few women in my demographic have the opportunity to explore their innermost thoughts, mistakes and all, and turn them into a best-selling book. Very few of us will ever have the chance to mold our culture.” She’s right, and her self-stated goal of helping to give a voice to others who have suffered pains and traumas like her own is a noble one.
That doesn’t keep her writing from struggling, however. She certainly has experienced more by the age of 25 than most (certainly I) can claim, but she has yet to develop a style that will allow her to put it on a page in a way that is both compelling and lasting. Her success has put her in a position to have the freedom to hone her voice as a writer, and with the stories she must have to tell, perhaps she will continue to do so.