Celebrity Book Binge

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Published December 3, 2008

I’m always a bit wary of books “by” celebrities. When you can pay someone to be at your beck and call, it seems likely that you can also throw down some cash for a ghostwriter. But once in a while a celebrity comes along with a work so engaging that it could not have been created by anyone else—or ignored. Carrie Fisher once suffered by Jabba the Hut; Jessica Lange, famously seduced by King Kong; Randy Jones, no friend of Giuliani’s bath-house raids. The stars aligned, and we have books from all of them this season.

Princess Leia has a Hollywood hangover. Carrie Fisher has transformed her critically-acclaimed one-woman show into an uproarious memoir of the same name, Wishful Drinking (Simon and Schuster, December 2). Debbie Reynolds’s daughter discusses being reared by Hollywood royalty and her immortality as a Pez dispenser—from the highs of fame to her sobering bouts with addiction and depression.

Jessica Lange has 30 films and two Oscars under her belt, and now she can add her first photography book, 50 Photographs (powerHouse, December 1), to her list of accomplishments. The one-time fine arts student, who left school to pursue a film career, presents 50 black-and-white photos from her travels. Quietly elegant, alternately uplifting and haunting, the monograph feels surreal and all too real at the same time. An introduction from artiste Patti Smith helps set the tone. Selections are also on view at New York’s Howard Greenberg Gallery until January 10, 2009.

In a new book, Macho Man: The Disco Era and Gay America’s “Coming Out” (Praeger, December 30) the original cowboy, Randy Jones, takes us back to the dance halls of the 70s, where he and the rest of the People brought a new sound – and style – to the music scene. More than a chronicle of a classically campy band, the work is equally about gay rights and culture (and even contains a “gayography”- a listing of openly gay musicians and performers in the United States before and since The Village People).