Saturday, November 30, 2013

Melissa Explains It All (Melissa Joan Hart)

I feel like this is a big, guilty embarrassment. But I must press onward. I READ MELISSA JOAN HART'S MEMOIR. There, I said it. And what a poor choice I made.

I don't need to explain much about the book--it's written by Melissa Joan Hart, child star of Sabrina and Clarissa Explains It All, whom I fondly remember from my childhood days as a spunky, cool girl. It seemed like a great idea to read her memoir and hear about how great it must have been to work on those shows (robot cat puppets and Caroline Rhea? YESSSS).

So I was very shocked  by what I actually got. The book is slim (288 pages), but this little book manages to be bloated, and that's one of its biggest problems. In fact, I'll start there. Now, the reason that MJH is famous? Those two TV shows I mentioned earlier. You would think those would get the majority of the text devoted to them (or, in the very least, two significant sections) because they're really the reason we care enough to buy her memoir.

But what do we get? Two very short chapters that whiz through her experiences (which lasted a combined 12 or 13 yearsof her life), providing few interesting details or anecdotes from either show's production. What we're left with is a general statement along the lines of "oh, I had a good time and people were nice". That's the best you can do for the two career-creating/defining moments of your life?

In general, the book moves sequentially, and it doesn't take long for it to annoy. MJH was, of course, a TV commercial star from a very young age, and the opening chapters devoted to these times are sickeningly self-congratulatory. All she wants to do is tell her devoted fans about how hard she worked and how "real" her life was as a child: her work ethic is so strong and she was so full of charm that she wowed everyone from such a young age. The subtitle of this book is "Tales from my abnormally normal life" and that is something she feels it's necessary to stress over and over again. It was surprisingly grating and something I wasn't expecting.

There's a bizarre amount of name-dropping, too, moments where Hart is eager to remind us about her famous life where she knows all of the other '90s sitcom kids and she partied with Mr. X and made out with Mr. Y and Bill Murray was the first person to know she was pregnant after they golfed together and she starred with this relatively-forgotten person in a movie you maybe saw. It's an uncomfortable combination of "look, I'm relevant" and "see how more culturally relevant I am than him!?".

By the time we're halfway through the book, we've finished talking about her fame-inducing career. "What else does the book talk about?" you ask. "LOL," I respond. There are a variety of things MJH sees fit to discuss--lengthy discussions of her relationship with her husband, which she is oddly defensive of (I'm talking multiple assertions of how great her marriage is), a whole chapter about her husband's passion for the Crimson Tide, a section about her desire to throw a good party but her inability to do so--and they're just boring.

What's most disappointing are the moments when Hart has a flash of really great humor. They're disarming because of how different they are from the drivel-y moments of narrative where Melissa wants only to tell us about how great she is. There was potential for her to write a great, really funny book here, and the glints of that behind the annoyingly flavorless fluff serve only to darken the rest of the book and show how weak it really is.

Unless you're one of her superfans who Googles her regularly (there seems to be a lot of concern about her weight on the Internet, which of course she's noted in her book), don't waste your time.

My rating: 2/5
Melissa Explains It All on Goodreads

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