3 New Books About Going Under Fame’s Microscope
Do you want to be known? How much? Fame and exposure are funny beasts. Many people long for exposure, only to die of it. That’s because putting yourself out there can have huge consequences; once people know you, it’s hard to control how they perceive or react to you. The characters in these three new books in this week’s book club go under the microscope in various ways and get more than they bargained for. It’s not all bad — it can be fun to be known. But it’s a challenge not everyone can pass.
1. LIVEBLOG by Megan Boyle ($22): In 2013, VICE columnist Megan Boyle began a grand experiment. She decided to lay herself bare on Tumblr and write down absolutely everything that happened to her, including her actions and as many thoughts as she could record. Nothing was too personal: not bodily functions, not illegal drug use, nor perceived personal failings and insecurities. (In that vein, all errors are preserved on the page for the most authentic experience.) Her life was completely raw and exposed to the world, and people started to respond; they found the candid, unfiltered aspect of her record resonant and even fascinating.
Boyle begins, “starting today, march 17, 2013, i will be liveblogging everything i do. right now there is no one i talk to frequently enough to disappoint. the only person keeping tabs on my life is me. it’s always been as time has been passing, i’ve been feelhas that’s not the strange thing, i’ve always felt like i’m watching my life, but recently it feels like i’ve as time has been passing, my life has been feeling more like an event i’ve been feeling more like i’m attending the event of my life than actively participating my life has been feeling more like an event i’m attending due to being shackled in secondary/intermediate stage of 1. less like a [person dutifully keeping tabs, look up something re keeping tabs], my participation in my life has been feeling like it doesn’t belong to me or something, like it’s just this event i’m not participating in much, and maybe wasn’t invited. used to expect my life has been feeling like an event i might not have been invited to. i’ve been feeling an equally uncontrollable sensation of my life not belonging to me, it’s just this event i don’t seem to be participating in much, and am slowly discovering i wasn’t invited.”
Delivered as a stream of consciousness rant punctuated by timings and events, LIVEBLOG does not have a traditional plot. Instead, it’s an ambitious experiment, a moment-to-moment glimpse inside the brain of a young woman who journeyed within and found that others were willing to come along.
2. Fabulous!: An Opera Buffa by Laury A. Egan ($15): “My psychic medium told me it was just a matter of time. Although Madame Clara didn’t elaborate on the details and said that her timelines might be a trifle off, she was absolutely positive that 2009 would be the year, confirmed by the Ouija board spirit enumerating 009. Well, that was good enough for me, Kiri De Uwana, diva divine! The bright lights were going to be downright dazzling…By the way, my name is Gilbert Eugene Rose. Although I don’t advertise my place of birth, I hail from the side of Atlantic City sans glamour. Except for music, my childhood was a perpetual winter, one I hurried through with desperate speed. Being a gay boy and, I modestly confess, a beauty – blond hair the color of sunlight, dark blue eyes like glittering jewels, fair skin perfect as cream, and refined features (nothing too large or too small, ahem!) – I was shunned by the girls because they were jealous and taunted by the boys because I was not sufficiently rough and tumble, though a little tumble now and then held occasional appeal.”
Gilbert Eugene Rose escaped New Jersey, an absent father, and a drunk mother more than a decade ago, showing up in New York with the usual suitcase full of dreams. In Gilbert’s case, it’s the desperate desire to be a famous opera singer. Currently broke and performing in drag as Kiri De Uwana (if you’re not up on your sopranos, trust him — it’s hilarious), he appears to score the jackpot after Madam Clara’s psychic prediction. He not only gets a role as a tenor in a production of Rigoletto, but, pretending to be a woman named Guilia Hancock, pitches his way into a soprano role in Mozart’s classic opera buffa, Cosi Fan Tutte. He even has his old flame’s new flame chasing after him. Everything’s coming up Gilbert.
That is, until he gets on the wrong side of La Donna, a female mobster who hires him for a third performance, which might be more than he can, er, “Handel.” Turns out that La Donna is a dangerous woman to cross, especially when she has a beef with the producer of one of the other shows. Fame, it seems, comes at a bit of a price, particularly when you’re playing more than one role. His life has become just as full of twisted plot and crazy characters as a comic opera; he can only hope that it has a similar happy ending.
3. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green ($26): Hank Green, brother of John Green (yes, that John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars fame) and co-creator of SciShow, Crash Course, and Vlogbrothers, continues to make a name for himself in this debut novel about a young artist who is thrust into fame after finding an alien. April May is a calendar-named 23-year-old bi woman who’s using her arts degree to do graphic design 16 hours a day at a soulless New York startup. Her very familiar story changes drastically when, one night, she finds what she thinks is a huge sculpture on the way back to her office (because, of course, her MetroCard was rejected).
“How do I explain how I felt about it? I guess…well…in New York City people spend ten years making something amazing happen, something that captures the essence of an idea so perfectly that suddenly the world becomes ten times clearer. It’s beautiful and it’s powerful and someone devoted a huge piece of their life to it. The local news does a story about it and everyone goes ‘Neat!’ and then tomorrow we forget about it in favor of some other ABSOLUTELY PERFECT AND REMARKABLE THING. That doesn’t make those things un-wonderful or not unique…It’s just that there are a lot of people doing a lot of amazing things, so eventually you get a little jaded. So that’s how I felt when I saw it – a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor, its huge barrel chest lifted up to the sky a good four or five feet above my head.”
April almost walks by but decides this “art piece” is cool enough to make a potentially viral video about with her friend Andy Skampt. The video, supposedly a chiding critique of New Yorkers’ inability to appreciate the “cool shit” in their midst, takes on a new tenor when it turns out the sculpture (which April dubs “Carl”) is not alone: The video blows up, April is thrust into fame, and Carls start appearing all over the world. Now, April has to make some serious moral choices regarding her new notoriety — and figure out what the Carls actually are and what they might mean. It turns out that fame is alienating enough without actual aliens involved.
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