Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Celebrity Picture Books

Wednesday is circuit training day, which means I have a legitimate reason to watch TV--it's the sweetener that makes weight work very palatable. (The longer the workout, the longer I can keep the TV on. Think about it.)

This explains how I happened to see Joy Behar being interviewed on ABC about her picture book Sheetzucacapoopoo: My Kind of Dog. Just minutes later, I saw Jamie Lee Curtis being interviewed on CBS about her new book Is There Really a Human Race?

Now, so-called celebrity writers take a beating in kidlitland. They're able to get publishers when "real" writers can't, and talk about publicity! These woman both snagged face-time on national TV. How many writers are able to do that?

But I watched these interviews and I really felt that I couldn't complain about these authors simply because they'd achieved a level of success in another field. I haven't read the books. They may be awful or they may be fantastic. But they certainly sound well-intentioned (if maybe a little instructional). And both books come from the authors' life experiences. Behar's book was inspired when she tried to take her dog to a dog show, and he was turned away because he wasn't a purebred. (I didn't totally get this part of the interview. Had she bought the dog a ticket? Was he coming to the show as her date? Or did she try to enter him in a competition?) Curtis got the idea for her latest book when her son came home and asked, "Is there a human race?"

I have to respect the desire to create. I respected the guy at a craft fair in the Maritime Provinces who was selling things he'd created out of beer bottle caps. I didn't buy any of his stuff, but I respected his need to make it. I can't feel differently about a person who has a famous name.

After all, is it fundamentally wrong for a person in a non-literary field to want to write a book? Isn't that how many writers start out? Does Scott Turow get slammed because he's also an attorney?

We shouldn't be making an issue about the people who write the books. We should be making an issue about the books themselves. A book stinks or it doesn't. It doesn't matter who wrote it.

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