Books: The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

Again, I don’t do New Years resolutions, but hopefully in listing the books I didn’t get around to reading in 2010 in a public forum where reviews are commonplace (um, this blog, for those of you not keeping track), I’ll be forced to devour in 2011.

1. Countdown to Lockdown by Mick Foley. I’ve been very vocal about my love for Mick Foley in recent months, and I was lucky enough to receive his latest memoir (number four, but who’s counting?) for my birthday, two months ago. I’ve been eagerly anticipating having enough time to dive into it headfirst, and I’m hoping it’ll be the first I check off my list this coming year.

2. Fragments by Marilyn Monroe, Bernard Comment & Stanley Buchthal. I love Marilyn Monroe, both as an icon (though I wouldn’t go as far as to have her image tattooed on me, à la Megan Fox), and as a fascinating person who had many layers, some of which are peeled away with the release of this book. This is a high priority read.

3. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady & the Unicorn, so something tells me I’m going to love Remarkable Creatures, about two female fossil hunters in 19th century England. The subject matter is a bit left-of-centre for historical fiction, but it appeals to me nonetheless. I know I couple of friends who own copies of this book, so maybe I can bum a lend…?

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have a tendency to build classics up in my mind before I’ve read them, and I’m then sorely disappointed. I have a feeling a similar effect will occur with The Great Gatsby, which I became interested in reading when I heard that it will be subjected to a movie remake at the hands of Baz Lurhmann. So bogan-esque, I know!

5. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Crosley’s books have done the review rounds in some of my favourite and trusted mags, like Yen and Cleo, with nothing but good vibrations about her collection of essays.

6. How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley. Yes, this is Crosley’s second appearance on the list, but all the buzz surrounding her books and her clever, witty and sometimes snarky tone means I can’t wait to gobble them up!

7. The Genius & the Goddess: Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Meyer. I read a review of this tome earlier in the year, and it has stayed with me since. Most intriguingly, the book “houses an appendix detailing the illnesses and operations” Monroe had throughout her life.

8. The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper by Dominick Dunne. I can’t get me enough of Dominick Dunne, so it’s a surpriseeven to methat I haven’t read all of his books yet. This one is somewhat of an official memoir, as a lot of his fictional works blur the line between reality and fiction, Another City, Not My Own especially.

9. The Life & Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan. In case you were wondering, I plan to do a lot of Monroe-related reading in 2011. This is one of the more imaginative books about her life.

10. The Prince, The Showgirl & Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clarke. Both are the basis for the new Michelle Williams effort, My Week with Marilyn. Just while we’re on that, I’d like to sneak in another Monroe-inspired fiction: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, which another biopic starring Naomi Watts as Monroe is based on. Perhaps if I had picked up the copy I always see at my favourite second-hand bookstore, Bendigo Book Mark, it would have given me more incentive to read it. No, wait, that doesn’t work for the numerous other books I’ve got sitting there, just begging to be read…

Related: In Appreciation of Mick Foley.

The Witching Hour: Halloween/My Birthday at Witches in Britches Cabaret.

All Eyes on Marilyn.

Things Bogans Like.

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

Elsewhere: [Bookslut] Genius, Goddess: Reading Theatre.

[Bendigo Book Mark] Homepage.

Chase You Down Until You Love Me, Paparazzi…

The following is based on a 2006 uni essay I wrote about the camera as an intruder, so sorry for any overly academic phrasing. I have attempted to bring it into the modern day with less formal language after reading an article on Jezebel, “The Day I Trailed a Paparazzi” in which—what else?—one of the blog’s writers trailed a paparazzo for a day.

Is the camera an intruder? Some would say that, in this day and age, with advanced photographic technology and increased access by photojournalists to worldwide events, it is. However, others assert that because of this advanced photographic technology and increased access, paired with the public’s growing need, and right, to know and see, that the camera it is not.

In terms of the cult of celebrity and the growing phenomenon of the paparazzi, privacy is a major issue. Peter Howe, in his book Paparazzi, provides this definition of the occupation:

“It refers to those photographers who seek out and follow celebrities… in order to photograph them in their most unguarded moments. In short, it’s taking photographs you shouldn’t take in places you shouldn’t be”.

However, some might argue that in becoming a movie star or rock star, and thereby a celebrity, you give up your right to privacy. Privacy laws in the US, specifically in Los Angeles where most paparazzi dwell, state that “if the subject of the photograph can reasonably expect privacy in a specific situation, such as inside his home, photographs of such situations cannot be published without permission”. And, as is evident in any glossy tabloid, most paparazzi shots are taken in public places, such as shopping strips and restaurants. “The consensus of opinion among the paparazzi is that the celebrities get the privacy they deserve, and that if you really don’t want to be photographed, then you don’t go to eat at Mr. Chows or the Ivy, where there are always photographers,” says Howe.

French theorist Roland Barthes states that “people change when they’re aware they’re being photographed.” So “when long lenses can ‘trespass’”, “the traditional definitions of privacy may not apply”.

The paparazzi are viewed as the most morally and ethically irresponsible photographer in the business but, “if everyone hates their work, why are they the best-paid and busiest photojournalists in the world?” asks Howe.

Our obsession with celebrity has only grown since I originally wrote this article back in 2006, a time which was already seeing the tabloid market explode, causing “the number of paparazzi to quadruple”, explains co-owner of L.A. paparazzi firm Bauer and Griffin, Randy Bauer, in an article from Cosmopolitan that same year.

Increasingly, blogs have become the stratosphere through which paparazzi pics circulate, however magazines still pay the big bucks. The first pictures of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their adopted son Maddox on a beach in Africa sold for $100,000; a far cry from the $6.68 million People magazine paid for the exclusive photographs of Pitt, Jolie and their first biological child, Shiloh.

In the five years since Pitt & Jolie got together and were hunted by the paparazzi (Wagner, a paparazzo who participated in a story on Jezebel, asserts that family pics of the couple are still the highest fetching shots), reality TV has reached its pinnacle, with celebs like Kim Kardashian milking their celebrity for all its worth; sad sacks like Lindsay Lohan and Heidi Montag tipping off the paparazzi in order to sell shots of themselves and keep their names in the media; and those in a league of their own, like Lady Gaga, whose song “Paparazzi” and albums “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster” take the piss out of the very machine that made them and creating a new definition of the über-celebrity/icon.

As above, though, the paparazzi are predominantly viewed in a negative light, not only by serious art photographers and the general public but, obviously, the stars they photograph. Kristen Stewart, for example, is one star who has been vocal in her dislike for the paparazzi; those in opposition to her stance might use the argument above, that to have success in the acting world is to accept the constant presence of photographers. Especially when you’re one half of the most talked about couple since the Jolie-Pitts. Elsewhere, the Jezebel article, written by Dodai Stewart, has a focus on Michael Douglas, who is receiving treatment for throat cancer, and the unremitting swarm of photographers outside his house every day. Is hounding a sick man taking our obsession with celebrity too far? American author and journalist Nathaniel Parker Willis says that, “the idea [is] that to really know someone, we must know their private life”.

From the Cosmo article: “[the paparazzi] can make celebrities feel anxious, depressed, and even mildly agoraphobic” That explains the notorious picture of Cameron Diaz, with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake, attacking a paparazzo, then!

But, increasingly celebs are embracing the paparazzi, realising that if they work in cooperation with them, their public lives will be less tumultuous.

Stewart relays her story about Wagner trailing Liev Schreiber and his son with Naomi Watts, into the subway. After talking to the subject for several minutes, Wagner tells Schreiber that he’s “gotta get a picture of you”, and “Liev said sure, put the kid on his shoulders and let Wagner snap away… No other photographers were around, so it’s an exclusive shot.” Wagner gets paid, Schreiber comes across as a cool family man; it’s a win-win situation.

Celebs with kids can get a bit weird about them being photographed, understandably, and in the same article, when Wagner encounters Watts with the kids, she kindly asks him not to take pictures, and he obliged. See, Hollywood dwellers? There’s no need to get violent with the paps. (Granted, the pics of Schreiber and Watts were taken in New York City, where the paparazzi scene is less brutal than in Los Angeles, and there seems to be a certain air of respect between subject and object.)

Other NYC dwellers such the cunning Sarah Jessica Parker, have some up with ways of making themselves less desirable targets:

“‘[SJP] wears the same thing everyday,’” he [Wagner] says. ‘On purpose. Because you talk about this today, then she wears it tomorrow, then what do you have to say? Nothing.’”

There is almost an element of protection there, too: provided both parties behave themselves and there exists a certain professional relationship, when your every move is recorded on camera, it’s got to be mighty hard to be mugged or attacked. Although, the victims of Alexis Neiers and her young-Hollywood burglary bling ring probably don’t subscribe to this school of thought.

Still, the opinion among the stars, the paps and the consumers who view their snaps on blogs and in magazines and newspapers, is that celebrities need the paparazzi to generate publicity around them, and the paps need to earn a buck. “An interdependency develops between them,” says Howe.

Stewart sums the cycle up nicely:

“We’re interested in celebrity minutiae. Despite ourselves. It is possible to be fascinated and repulsed at the same time. You can find celebrities appealing while finding the gossip culture appalling. We buy the magazines, hate them for lying to us, critique them, laugh at them, talk about them with our friends and buy the magazines again the next week. If you’ve ever read a gossip site or flipped through a celebrity weekly, you’re part of the system: the paparazzi take pictures for the mags and blogs, the mags and blogs exist because there is an audience.”

Related: Poor Little Rich Girl: Lindsay Lohan in Who.

Poor Little Rich Girl: Who Cover Girl Heidi Montag.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] The Day I Trailed a Paparazzo.

[Vanity Fair]: The Suspects Wore Louboutins.