It's been a while since I've had anything to say about celebrity authors. Six years, in fact. And more. I have an outsider's attitude toward the subject, meaning that I don't have the same attitude as some of my blogging buddies. I really can't rouse a lot of ire on the subject.
I'm only thinking about this at all today because Ms. Yingling brought it up in relation to My Teacher and Me by Al Yankovic. Ms. Y. notes some of the on-line feeling "against celebrity authors," but, she says, "this is WEIRD AL. I liked When I Grow Up, and am really, really looking forward to reading this new book."
I'm not on Ms. Yingling's level as far as Yankovic love goes, but I have enjoyed and appreciated his work from time to time over the years. I recognize that he has worked and has maintained a career over a long period of time. Isn't that what he's known for? His work? And should he be punished for all that work by having new work rejected because he's known for the first work he did?
I think a big factor in the celebrity author issue is the actual meaning of the word celebrity. And, sure enough, an argument can be made that the definition has evolved.
In Toward a New Definition of Celebrity, Neal Gabler says that cultural historian Daniel Boorstin described a celebrity as a "person who is known for his well-knownness," someone who has no "substantiality." This was back in the '60s, and it's a definition of celebrity I am familiar with. It's a big part of the reason that I don't see people like Madonna or Jamie Lee Curtis or Henry Winkler as celebrity authors. Whatever the quality of their writing may be, these are people who have worked and achieved a level of success in a particular field. That is why they are known. They are not simply known for their well-knowness, famous for being famous.
Gabler feels that Boorstin's definition doesn't work, though, because so many of the people we think of as celebrities actually have become famous for having achieved something. (Like Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Henry Winkler.) They are known for having done something. I would argue that the word is just being used incorrectly, but maybe this is a case of the cow is out of the barn, forget about closing the door. People have been applying the word celebrity to describe people who have become famous for the high quality of their work and now that's what it has come to mean
But if that's the case, how can celebrities be condemned for trying to pursue a new line of work (as in writing a children's book) because they've been successful in their original line of work?
A question unrelated to celebrity authors--if the word "celebrity" is used to describe those who are famous for what they have done, what do we use to describe the Kardasians and Kate Gosselins of the world, people who truly are famous merely for being famous?