For those familiar with The (other) Guardian’s Lost in Showbiz column, Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over The World And Why We Need An Exit Strategy will undoubtedly be greeted with a rapturous welcome. Marina Hyde has turned her weekly railings against the inanities of celebrity culture into a proper book, with all the same acerbic wit and keen sense for melodrama that readers enjoyed and that Hyde has an obvious, natural talent for.
This is not to say, however, that Celebrity is an unqualified success. Turning newspaper columns into books is an oft-repeated, rarely successful trick, and whilst Hyde is infinitely more suited to the task than, say, Richard Littlejohn, the limitations of her subject matter quickly become apparent.
Problem number one can perhaps be best described as being a classic example of the famous fish/barrel/shooting paradox. If Ms. Hyde comes across fish in a barrel, what should she do? Sure, blasting the sea creatures away for collecting foreign babies like handbags might seem fun, but it would also undoubtedly become rather wearisome after 250 pages: not fun for the fish, not fun for Ms. Hyde, and not even fun for the gun, which in this analogy is the author’s prodigious and uncanny talent for insulting Scientology.
And blast away she does: at Tom Cruise, for pedalling his made-up religion to victims at the site of Ground Zero on September 11th; at Richard Gere, for claiming to speak on behalf of “the entire world” (seriously); at Sharon Stone, for having such astonishing self-regard as to believe that by making out with a few dudes she might bring about peace in the Middle East.
The results are undeniably entertaining, albeit in somewhat nihilistic way – and truly, fish have never deserved it so badly – but reading Hyde’s hyperbolic, faux-reverential style of prose gives the impression that a greater purpose is intended; one more deserving of a book.
Hidden behind the sarcasm and catty asides is a serious criticism not only of the actions of a few narcissistic stars, but of the entire culture of celebrity-obsession which we have assimilated into our everyday lives. In this regard, Celebrity seems a far more interesting endeavour, and a task to which Hyde is uniquely suited.