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And if it's not money that lubricates the muse, then what is it? I
don't think it's vanity; if it were,
celebrity prose wouldn't be so generic: the authors would craft
their stories (or have them crafted)
with more flair. What drives them, I think, is vanity's incestuous
sibling: insecurity. Modern media has glutted us with fame,
but in a way, it's more precious than ever because the market
for it has grown so volatile. In a famous-for-fifteen-minutes
culture, a boring
autobiography is a way to preserve the amphetamine rush of one's
faded renown. "Once I was so compelling to
strangers," the celebrity author can exhort, "they hungered even
for the plainest details of my life."
Regardless of motivation, the task of actually writing a celebrity autobiography is one that generally falls outside the province of the "author's" responsibilities. Which really is as it should be. Self-penned autobiographies, celebrity or otherwise, are often the worst place to find out about a person: because the author has actually lived the events he describes, he labors under the assumption that he has some special insight about them. Only in rare instances is this ever the case, however. True insight requires distance, a perspective that can put things in the proper context. This is especially true when it comes to celebrities. After all, their primary attraction isn't their actual lives, but rather, what we, the common people, dream their lives must be like. It's no coincidence that what is often cited as the best celebrity biography ever written, Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes, is one in which the author, David Thomson, made no attempt at all to interview his subject.
Whether or not Tesh is working solo or with a collaborator on his book I don't know. In either case, it's clear he doesn't recognize the principle of distance as it applies to biography. Otherwise he would have left telling of his life to me.