Kicked Out of Zolar X (phyllisgabor) wrote in celebritybooks,
Kicked Out of Zolar X
phyllisgabor
celebritybooks

"won't you come into my parlor?" said the spider to her stepdaughter

Last week I was in a used bookstore and spotted THIS in the biography section:

Black Widow SC

COOL, I thought, a weird cover variant for Mommie Dearest! Then I realized that this was no mere reissue with snazzy new cover art. This was an actual novel written by Christina Crawford in 1982. Not content to rest on her laurels and collect royalty checks, Christina penned what the back cover blurbs call "the story only she could tell--of a cruel, obsessed woman, as lethal as she is beautiful, as fascinating as she is immoral, unchallenged in her evil until her twenty-year-old stepdaughter takes her on in a struggle that must end with the destruction of one or the other."

I had REALLY high hopes for this book, to say the least. And while I enjoyed it immensely (I was almost late to work this morning because I just had to read that last chapter), in the end the whole story rang a little hollow. Title character Vivian Simpson never comes off quite as wanton and evil as she's intended to be, and her stepdaughter advisary is such a ridiculously idealized, one-dimensional character that their epic showdown isn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. In some parts of the book Christina Crawford really nails those little details that can make a good trashy novel so rewarding, but in other parts she's strangely restrained.

What makes this book worth reading is the outrageously campy dialogue and eerie parallels to Joan Crawford's life and career. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian is a woman from a poor family who makes herself over into a high-society lady. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian has skeletons in her closet--SEXY skeletons. Like Joan Crawford, Vivian has an aversion to dirt and anything she perceives to be COMMON (in one brilliant scene chills run down Vivian's spine when she sees a crusty old ketchup bottle).

I wonder if Christina recognized the irony in her writing a story with a main character so similar to the shameless social climbers her mother played in so many movies? Who can say?

This is a must-read for any Mommie Dearest fans and would make a fantastic beach book.

Black Widow HC

for comparison, the original hardcover edition
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