Sunday, January 16, 2011

Accepting that Designated Book Day is Unlikely Day!: Learning to Fly, by Victoria Beckham

So, here I am, foolishly thinking that I'll be able to like, read and stuff at my job as a receptionist, but in the three hours I had this book out on my desk, no less than seven people gave me crap about reading a book about Victoria Beckham. These people, I can only assume, are pitiably bereft of taste and sense. Listen, people, when the universe gives you someone who not only willingly bears the title of "Posh Spice" but then goes on to recreate herself as a fashion designing, Beckham marrying wearer of five inch, ZERO HEELED shoes, you pay attention, because this person is clearly an alien recently arrived from some advanced, loopy culture, a secret superninjagenius, or someone so balls-out bizarre as to be comedy gold.

This is not a great work of literature, but you don't need me to tell you that. What it IS, however, is a startlingly sweet memoir that tells the story of an interesting life in a funny and wholly endearing tone. I make no secret of my love for Victoria Beckham - I think she's hysterical - but I was surprised to find myself thinking that one need NOT be a fan beforehand. Some might find her style of writing somewhat insipid, particularly if you don't care for conversational tone in your books, but I am inclined to think that anyone would walk away from this book with the feeling of having had a peasant conversation with an interesting person.

Victoria Beckham's progression through life is pretty well-known if you swish an eyeball over any kind of pop culture magazine, are a Manchester United fan, or survived the Spice Girl onslaught of the 90s. She was a Spice Girl, met David Beckham, became a solo artist and fashion presence, and has remained on the edge of the glitterati-sphere ever since. There is a lot about her I didn't know, however, including her disordered eating and the truly horrifying threats of violence and kidnapping that the Beckhams endured.

Her frankness does her a great service as she talks about all of this. I really enjoyed her perspective on fame and the work required to achieve it. Rather than the usual gloss we get from magazines and fluffy interviews, Beckham freely admits that she both worked impossibly hard to achieve some kind of stage fame, and that she made many errors along the way. Even when she was in the Spice Girls, there were tough times and exhausting work schedules, and she outlines all of this while providing a glimpse into the industry perspective on the girl band and the way management handled them.

This same illuminating approach can be devastating as she discusses the rockiest parts of her life. Her account of her disordered eating includes both the physical effects and the chillingly mundane slide into those behaviors. She shares her struggle without glamorizing it or turning herself into a freakshow. Even more harrowing is her account of the threats received against her infant son, Brooklyn, and the bodyguard who betrayed the family. Originally taken on in response to those threats, the bodyguard was actually spying on the Beckham family, and later attempted to sell his records to biographer Andrew Morton. Writing this part of the book must have been very painful for Victoria, because her panic still comes through the pages years after the incident. I can't imagine how scary it must have been to have someone you trust implicitly turn on you so completely, AND to realize that he'd been conspiring against you through your entire relationship.

Overall, this is a breezy read of middling literary quality that makes up for it's weaknesses with the charm of it's subject. Of course, as an autobiography, it is one side of a story - I'm sure some of it's actors would have some complaints about their portrayal - but it's an interesting one, and gives some depth to a figure usually seen in gossip magazines alone.

Crossposted at the Outpost.

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