Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Party Girl" by Anna David

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, WTF? Axxman, what are you doing reading a book about some hot Hollywood reporter? Well, everyone in a while I like a good novel that takes me into a different world. Now, the last three books I’ve read were a couple of books by James Joes about Counter-Insurgency and “Blood & Thunder” A Tale of the Old West. In the last five years my life has been consumed by all things United States Army, Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism. Essentially reading about how good men train to kill other, not so good men and it can be very depressing at times. Now, I like to take a break here and there and one of my favorite ways to break up the military stuff is to tune into G4’s “Attack of the Show”, which is a silly, snarky show that covers video games, computers, technology, movies and other pop-culture stuff. It’s an hour long and a pleasant oasis of non-serious activity. On Wednesdays the do a segment called “In Your Pants” which covers sex and relationship advice and the co-host of this segment is a cool lady by the name of Anna David. She writes columns for a variety of magazines about sex and relationships and she comes across as being wise beyond her years. A wisdom that can only come with mileage. She’s usually dead on with her assessments and has an amazing ability to articulate how a woman feels during certain physical acts as well as how the female mind often perceives the world differently than men. So when I read that she had her first novel come out I made a point to hunt it down and buy it.

I’m glad that I did and I think that you should grab a copy too.

Through her character, Amelia Stone, Anna David slips the reader through those red velvet ropes of Hollywood, beyond the red carpet and into the world of a Gossip Magazine reporter. Using the fictional Amelia, Anna incorporates her biographical accounts into a story of a smart, educated young woman who’s keen and hilarious observations of the Hollywood party scene juxtapose harshly against her failure to realize that she has become a Cocaine addict.

The story starts at a wedding where Amelia’s adventurous nature, fueled by coke, gets her into an encounter in a pool house bathroom and later she finds herself in bed with two men. Definitely a great way to open a book if you ask me. From there we follow Amelia as she works a Movie premier, here Anna shows some skill as a writer because this brief chapter sets the tone and style for her story because buried underneath the humorous observations about certain actors and the catty remarks about skinny actresses it becomes apparent that Amelia is simply biding her time until she can get into the lady’s room and do coke. From there, Amelia ends up at a small party at a Malibu beach house where a game of “Truth or Dare” breaks out.

From there we follow Amelia as she goes to some Rock Star’s house where he insists that she interview him in bed. Shortly afterwards we watch as Amelia is surprised as she’s fired from her job because of her cocaine use. It is here where Anna David’s story-telling shifts into a different gear because this kind of story has been told a zillion times before and she manages to keep it original and true to her character, which is very hard to do even for someone who’s writing from personal experience. To be blunt, Anna does a masterful job of writing from an addict’s perspective as Amelia goes from a good paying job at a magazine, where all she does is go to parties and premiers and next finds herself picking up dog crap from a pet of a high caliber Hollywood exec for $10.00 an hour. Amelia’s coke-fueled rationalizations leave her oblivious to her circumstances as she spends what money she has left on more cocaine.

I can relate to this. I’m an alcoholic and it wasn’t until I’d stopped drinking that I began to realize that the reason my life sucked was due to booze. While I was a drunk this fact escaped me. It never occurred to me that these amazing women in my life kept dumping me because I had a drinking problem.

For the first half of the book, the only reliable man in Amelia Stone’s life is Alex, her coke dealer.

Anyway, from there we see the inevitable crash and Amelia passes out in her own vomit next to a dumpster following an amazingly dangerous encounter that I’ll leave for you to read about; and then it’s off to Re-Hab. Once again, Anna David keeps this story from becoming a clichĂ© fest as she cleans herself up even though they’re all in here. This is due to this being more autobiographical and Anna’s sense of humor and honesty keeps the story above average. Often, writers who stray into re-hab stories either over dramatizes, over emotionalize or over do the whole event. Sure, it’s often a life-changing event for them but too often these stories end up dripping with self-indulgence that Anna manages to skate over in a classy way. You get enough emotion so that you get a good feel for Amelia’s transformation (more of an escape, actually) from coke-head to sober person without being beaten over the head or having our intellect insulted.
Once Amelia’s out of re-hab the story then becomes another challenge as she is hired to write a column about her crazy adventures for a prestigious magazine, crazy adventures she doesn’t plan on having any more in her new and sober life. She learns that the re-invented Amelia Stone can have just as many wild nights sober as the old Amelia Stone did.

“Party Girl” is a darn good book and an excellent first novel from Anna David. It’s a book that people who’ve dreamed about going to Hollywood to “Be a Star” should read. It’s a book that someone who’s smart and at risk should read, maybe you could get it as a gift for them. The narrative about cocaine use is bluntly honest and unglamorous and illustrates how a smart person can find themselves in trouble quickly and not even know it. Anna shows that as an addict, people become unaware of themselves and will rationalize all kinds of destructive behavior in their quest for their next fix. “Party Girl” is also a wonderful look at Hollywood and the people that populate the entertainment industry and the industries that feed of the entertainment industry. People who don’t believe in other dimensions should read this book because Anna illustrates the netherworld of the “Special People” of Hollywood, who move through the night like Vampires and hide in the shadows of the spotlight. There’s an insightful remark Anna makes about watching old TV shows; she becomes depressed because:

“These people were once this town’s big deal. They ate at all the right restaurants, and got invited to all the right parties, and had their names in Variety and were adored, and I’ve never heard of any of them, and now they’re gone and who the hell cares about them today?”

If I were governor, I’d have that written on a giant plaque and put it just below the “Hollywood” sign.

Smart Stuff.

Smart book.

Check it out.

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