Drew Barrymore just turned 40 and has announced she’s going to write a collection of autobiographical essays. This is usually that point at which I’d piss and moan about celebrities who slip into any profession on a whim, but, um, I love a personal essay. And I think Drew will have some very interesting stories to tell.
We know the narrative: former child star born into a show business family, famously rehabbed as a teen, David Letterman flasher, impulsively married a few times, but that’s not what defines her. I don’t think of Drew as ever being stamped as a “survivor” or a sad case, even though there are elements of her upbringing that are indeed sad.
I love a memoir like Lainey’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken (Lainey: thanks for the shameless promotion, Maria!) because it’s based around a theme rather than being held to chronological constraints. I don’t care about a linear story, really. I want to read about the most revelatory moments and hard-won lessons in a person’s life, not a laundry list of dates and places and people.
The essay format allows her to parse out the details and stories she’d like to share, and maybe keep some things private. Drew’s relationship with her mom seems to constantly be in flux, so she might not want to dig into that. And she doesn’t need to, really. Drew isn’t desperate for attention or validating her place in the celebrity ecosystem. We know she’s entrenched, so I feel there won’t be a lot of “look at my famous friends!” boasting here. Drew IS the famous friend. She hardly needs an anecdote about Cameron Diaz seeing as she has decades of Hollywood absurdities and family dysfunction to mine.
That being said, I imagine essay-style books like Mindy Kaling’s and Lena Dunham's are goddamn hard because they have to be very sharp and very insightful (and unlike a usual celebrity biography, can’t be handed over to a ghostwriter). Mindy and Lena are both experienced writers and have spent years honing their skills and crafting stories in every medium – it seems like they are breezy and effortless but that’s the trick of it. I’m curious about how Drew will approach it and what her process will be.
What does Drew sound like as a writer? Will she offer up a preview in The New Yorker? And will Tom Green make an appearance? I’m already into this book and it doesn’t even have a pub date.
Attached - Drew with her family at the farmer's market in January.