It’s like a traveling freak show that stars the youngest and hottest in Hollywood.
— Nicole Richie, The Truth About Diamonds
No doubt Paris Hilton’s foray into literature (if one could classify Confessions of an Heiress, which contained more photographs than actual words, as literature) has prompted ex-best friend Nicole Richie to write her own memoir — I mean, novel:
Of course, writing a book better than Confessions of an Heiress is about the equivalent of writing a screenplay less ridiculous than Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or providing entertainment more exhilarating than watching grass grow. In short, it’s not much of an accomplishment.
The Truth About Diamonds follows rich socialite Chloe Parker, the adopted daughter of a rock musician, through her ill-fated friendship with a rich heiress, love affair with drugs, brief stint at rehab, a reality show, and a once-obese DJ boyfriend. Sound familiar?
To even further distance herself from Chloe’s identity, Richie makes herself a character in the book. Yes, there’s a character named Nicole Richie. And she’s the narrator and Chloe’s best friend. How very meta.
Allegations that Richie hired a ghostwriter have been floating about the Internet. True, sibylline words such as “clandestine” and “diaphanous” pop up with alarming frequency, but the writing, despite the fancy words, is so rife with cheesy clichés and heavy-handed metaphors, there’s little chance a respectable writer could have allowed them to find their ways into any manuscript. Take this sentence from the pre-rehab portion of the novel:
“[Chloe] was sitting on her ass in a funky puddle, the perfect metaphor for the pond of loser juice she’d been swimming upstream in ever since drugs had won her over.”
First of all, it’s incredibly awkward (way too many prepositions). Secondly, it’s obvious the puddle’s a metaphor, Nicole, you don’t need to inform us. Thirdly, “loser juice”?
Now I consider myself pretty hip to popular vernacular, but some of the phrases Richie uses in this book seem so specific to her insular Beverly Hills world, where, apparently, people substitute “Oh my God” with “Oh my Versace,” that she ends up alienating the reader. No one outside her very small demographic will understand what she means when she describes DJ Ray’s (the love interest) look as having “an intensity that seemed more than just ambulance chasing”. Nor will anyone outside of the privileged class know of “the kind of girl who’d get pregnant just to have an abortion to brag about”. Richie does not let the reader into the world she portrays, but keeps them at observers’ length.
Richie’s novel is not only firmly entrenched in its specific demographic, it equally rooted in time. The second page references a Kanye West song. The Federlines are name-dropped in the first chapter. Nicole and friends spot Zach Braff (“without Mandy Moore”!!!) in the second chapter. While pop culture refs are well and good, Richie’s are so timely that in a year, they will be rendered moot.
Because Richie is merely relaying the events that unfold, rather than experiencing, or confessing them, the novel reads like secondhand gossip and feels stale. While readers don’t pick up Richie’s book expecting a literary masterpiece, they do — and should — expect some salacious entertainment. Jenna Jameson’s sensational memoir How to Make Love Like a Porn Star is filled with both dish and insight and would have served well as a model for Richie’s book. Instead, Diamonds‘ “he said, she said” style gives the reader no sense of who Chloe is. We don’t know how she got into drugs. We don’t understand the attraction to co-star Paris Hilton … oops, Simone. And we don’t ever see Chloe with her adopted father. We just hear that he’s, like, the nicest ever.
Richie, in The Truth About Diamonds, somehow manages to take a lifetime of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll and render it about as exciting as Kenny G playing Christmas tunes. What she’s left with is a vapid self-portrait, instead of a multi-layered, or at least entertaining, reflection of the life of a marginal celebrity. Instead we get a guilty pleasure without the pleasure, just the guilt.
Note: When I started this review, Richie and DJ AM were still engaged. Several hours later, it was announced on Yahoo News that the two have called off the engagement. Still, Nicole did manage to stay engaged for 9 months, much longer than Paris and Paris’ scant, what, two? This proves that Nicole is still better than Paris.