Crushable Book Club: Celebrity Chekhov

In the first story of Ben Greenman‘s Celebrity Chekhov, Nicole Richie meets her old partner-in-crime Paris Hilton in an airport:

“This is my husband, Joel, Joel Madden, though I did not take his last name. He’s from Good Charlotte, the band, do you remember their albums? And this is my daughter, Harlow. She’s a third-grader…..Don’t be shy, Harlow. Go nearer to her. And this is my husband, Joel Madden, though I did not take his last name, from Good Charlotte, the band, do you remember them?”

This repetition, beneath which lays a study of class culture relevant to both 19th century Russian literature and the current obsession with Hollywood tabloids, is unfortunately as funny or insightful as Greenman’s book gets. In most of the other stories, including “The Darling” (about Nicole Kidman with Tom Cruise, and then Keith Urban, and then, oddly enough, Brad Pitt‘s child), and “A Lady’s Story” (about Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake), Greenman seems to be playing nothing more than Mad Libs — inserting the names of famous people into the exact same architecture of Chekov’s original short stories. Most are no longer than a page or two, and therefore read quickly without getting cumbersome, and make a cute exercise that you’d expect to find in the back of the New Yorker or in McSweeneys (both of which Greenman has written for).

Unfortunately, these character studies never move beyond this clever conceit. Despite snickering to myself imagining Steve Martin taking the baby that David Letterman thought was his own illegitimate child, I would have preferred to read this book a reoccuring article format instead of shelling out $12 to read them all in one place.

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    • Jennifer

      I don’t have the book, but I read an excerpt about Britney online and absolutely loved it. It was moving and it really made me think about celebrities and the way that we need them to be perfect people but also we use them to get out all our bad feelings about ourselves. I didn’t even see it as funny really.

    • Antony

      Also spell Chekhov right, please! It’s not the Chinese guy from Star Trek!