[29 September 2005]
It was never my intention to start my review with a refusal to consider the writer’s most basic claim about her work. But, Miss Anderson, this is not fiction. To consider Star Struck a work of fiction would be to debase the entire genre into a cowardly practice of fibbed-up memoirs, narcissism with the thin drop cloth of changed names and a few crumbs tossed in for diversion rather than from imagination.
Star Struck follows the life of Star Wood Leigh, a gorgeous women with a jealous rock and roll husband that she married after a bender in which he wakes up hogtied in a hotel bed. She works on a show about lifeguards that rather suspiciously resembles Baywatch while also working on a movie that sounds a lot like Barb Wire. Her extremely jealous and tatted up hard rock hubby, Jimi Deed, with a penis that could make a loaf of Wonder Bread envious, sounds ever so slightly like Tommy Lee. The public of this work of “fiction” even gets hold of their vacation sex tape. This novel feels like a homework assignment from a bad Hollywood therapist. “Imagine yourself as the protagonist in your own life and take notes with a pen that has a huge heart eraser and writes in four neon colors.” Perhaps because the novel appears so plainly autobiographical, Anderson’s character interrogations run water strider deep; she never punctures the surface of her own printed life.
There’s something subtly depressive about the laundry list way that Anderson catalogs Star’s life as if afflicted with something like the tit job version of ennui. If the effect is intentional, then it’s brilliant in that Bret Easton Ellis kind of way. Anderson’s prose absorbs the world in inch-deep gulps. The reader gets little atmospheric feel for the non-descript hotels, resorts, or the picaresque beauty of the boat trip she takes with her rock star husband where they bone each other repeatedly as if some outside force keeps dropping quarters in. Kill paparazzi. Dump daiquiris on pussy. Suck dick. Get part in movie. Suck on that massive meat again. Oh yeah, did I mention that there’s a murder in the book, a device that’s dropped in the way you might lose your keys getting out of a cab. There may in fact be multiple murders since, from time to time, boyfriend Jimi will drop sturdy garbage bags in a lake or swamp, with some ominous comment, but like most of the events in the novel, it’s de-contextualized, plotted out like an interrupted cell phone conversation, a style that would be impressionistic if intentional. As it stands, it’s just sloppy and flippant, a few non-contiguous diary sections merged with all the delicacy of a crash-test dummy landing on a hood.
Even the emotional peaks of the book lack significant interiors. Star’s mother dies and we’re left with: “The tears came as soon as her mom was out of sight. Once she felt she didn’t need to be strong for her mother, Star collapsed onto the cold tile outside the OR doors.” This might have meant more if her mother hadn’t just popped in for a quick bit of death or if this moment of existential agony didn’t read like soap opera stage directions. A few brisk pages later and we’re at another coke party or in her make-up trailer with a couple of gay men explaining to her how to take a dick in her ass in order to please her boyfriend. The result? “Star got a diamond necklace a week later. Maybe it was just a coincidence.” That’s right, ladies, open your barkers for jewelry. The most densely emotional moment in the book comes from the death of her pooch Mutley, a loss that leaves her insane with grief, speechless, and inconsolable, so much so that only quoting Auden can possibly capture the enormity of her desolation. I guess Mom should have learned how to fetch.
God forbid that I give you anymore “plot” spoilers, but those murders opaquely drizzled in several blowjobs back figure into the jolting, out-of-mood, and out-of-sync ending. I think we’re supposed to love both our main characters, but the way in which they commit murder like it’s as easy as removing an umbrella from a cocktail makes the novel feel suffused with accidental psychosis. Even as a paparazzi-slaughtering regurgitation of American Psycho this novel offers no satirical weight, no adventurous or humorous prose, not even the easy breezy insignificance of a throwaway beach read. Reading Star Struck feels like losing massive amounts of blood; you’re exhausted and barely have the energy to follow the vaporous characters and their verb-list lives.
I have no special animus for Pamela Anderson, nothing like the critical way in which I like to hunt Paris Hilton for the good eatin’ of barrel-shot fish. She seems, in the presentation of herself as a celebrity persona, to be kind and well intentioned, concerned for the plight of animals in a way that doesn’t seem remotely posed. But neither trait necessarily makes for fine writing nor a good read. The fact that Star Struck so transparently transposes the whole of her life (along with a few flecked on murders) into bleached prose, makes it all that much more of a lost opportunity. I have no doubt that being famous and beautiful isn’t what it must appear from the outside, but rather than decimate that illusion or plumb the depths of her toxic relationship with the bad-boy rocker, Anderson merely holds a compact mirror up to her Hollywood experience, missing much of the greater expanse, a reflection without input, a peephole into a flat-surfaced swatch of barren world.