It's only been a week since the news broke that Britney Spears is on the verge of signing a deal to write a novel — and, dammit, I want to read it NOW!
I know, I know. There's an incredible backlash in the literary community because a lot of deserving authors are struggling as the publishing industry throws huge sums of money at certain pop culture icons to "write" novels. Included in this trend are Lauren Conrad, Snooki, Bethenny Frankel, and all three of the Kardashian sisters.
Here's why I think we should all give Spears the benefit of the doubt.
I was in the room one time when Spears, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen were playing cards and talking about writing. It was a nice suite in a five-star Vegas casino. That was back in the day when, every summer, I'd take a few weeks off from The Day to indulge my favorite leisure time activity: working as a hotel maid.
I hadn't known anyone was actually staying in the room and was just dropping off some of the house-made Cumin-dusted porkskins that we placed on guest pillows – and imagine my surprise, on opening the door with the pass-key, to see three such talented writers hanging out. (You probably know that, along with her mother, Lynn Spears, Brit has co-authored two of the greatest novels the world has ever known.)
I apologized profusely for my untoward entrance, but Wallace, with a Bret Michaels signature do-rag around his head, grinned and said, "C'mon in! Help yourself to some refreshments!" He pointed at a buffet table laid out against the back wall. It was heaped with fresh fruit, cheeses, bottles of wine and, for some reason, a towering pile of melting and unwrapped Eskimo pies.
Franzen and Brit waved hello as I tiptoed by the card table and helped myself to a hunk of Jarlsberg cheese. The trio went back to their game and conversation and I basically played the role of fly-on-the-wall. It was fascinating.
For one, the card game they were playing was Authors – which I thought was, in terms of a literary device, ironic.
For another, as I nibbled and unobtrusively listened to their banter, it became obvious Spears' knowledge of literature was comprehensive. It was also clear — perhaps surprisingly — that Franzen and Wallace were soaking up her every word like acolytes at the feet of Socrates. It was dizzying. She would make observations or ask questions – then wait for Franzen and Wallace to reflect and then respond.
Spears: "Should the that fact that Knut Hamsun was a Nazi sympathizer detract from his body of work? Or is it the reader's responsibility to separate his or her thoughts on Hamsun's personal life from the act of reading Pan or Mysteries?"
Spears: "Quick! Differentiate between moral, unmoral, non-moral and immoral! Answer in the context of Raskolnikov!"
Spears: "The four great novelists are Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy and James Patterson. And yet – Patterson doesn't even write his own books anymore. Does that make you sad or jealous?"
Spears: "Look! I just completed the Louisa May Alcott set! Seems as though I win again, suckas!"
Spears: "Post-modern schmost-modern! If I catch either of you using wry footnotes or run-on sentences that go on interminably, I'll kick your writerly asses." (David and Jonathan both looked sheepish and even crestfallen -- then Spears whooped and lit a Marlboro Light and blew a cone of smoke at the ceiling. "Just kidding!" she cried merrily.)
Everyone laughed and, later that afternoon, while Spears was napping, Wallace wrote the bulk of the as-yet-unpublished sequel to Infinite Jest and Franzen successfully completed an application to co-write the next James Patterson novel.
This is why I'm happy about Britney Spears getting a presumably nice advance to write a novel. It's gonna be fantastic.