Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

From Goodreads:
The lives of more than twenty-five actresses lost before their time—from Marilyn Monroe to Brittany Murphy—explored in haunting, provocative new work by an acclaimed poet and actress.

Amber Tamblyn is both an award-winning film and television actress and an acclaimed poet. As such she is deeply fascinated-and intimately familiar—with the toll exacted from young women whose lives are offered in sacrifice as starlets. The stories of these actresses, both famous and obscure-tragic stories of suicide, murder, obscurity, and other forms of death—inspired this empathic and emotionally charged collection of new poetic work. 

Featuring subjects from Marilyn Monroe and Frances Farmer to Dana Plato and Brittany Murphy—and paired with original artwork commissioned for the book by luminaries including David Lynch, Adrian Tome, Marilyn Manson, and Marcel Dzama—Dark Sparkler is a surprising and provocative collection from a young artist of wide-ranging talent, culminating in an extended, confessional epilogue of astonishing candor and poetic command. 
Writing
I mean, it's poetry.  It's really hard for me to judge the artistic merits of modern poetry because I don't get most of it.  And I have a lot of insecurity relating to the fact that my brother is a complete professional at poetry (no seriously, he's published and teaches it on a college level) and I am terrified of the entire genre, particularly modern blank verse.  I feel like I have no idea what makes something good versus what makes something random strings of words.

In this case, my gut leads me towards mediocre.  I say that as a total and complete non-expert and I'd happily change my opinion if someone explained things to me differently.  But from what I could tell, these are decent but not exceptional poems.  The idea behind them, however, is original and interesting, especially given that the author is a celebrity herself and that the poems deal with fame and its tragic ends.

I do think she did a fine job of conveying her theme - that celebrity doesn't frequently bring happiness, that aging is a death sentence for the careers of women in show business, and that fame can turn on you in a second.  While the theme came across, I didn't find anything particularly memorable about the language she used or the style of her writing.  It wasn't bad, but I also wasn't impressed enough to keep any of these around for future reference.

Entertainment Value
I think the main entertainment value in these was in looking up each actress and reading about her life and tragic end.  There were only a few I had heard of - Brittany Murphy, Marilyn Monroe - and many who I had the joy of reading about for the first time.  While the book could easily be read in under an hour, I spent quite a few hours with it looking up each actress and reading about her life and what became of her in the end.  Many of the poems only make sense if you read them with a knowledge of the subject's life, so it is important to have that background information.

Overall
I have to say that, while I think this is interesting and original, it's not a must-read.  If you're not really into poetry and the idea of fame and celebrity and its fickleness doesn't particularly interest you, this is probably one you can pass on.  That said, it does make for an interesting concept, particularly with the art included.  I read it right before listening to Almost Famous Women, which I'll be reviewing soon and it made for some very interesting comparison.  I think the two pair pretty well together, if you're looking for something similar in theme.

Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy to review.

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