With the announcement that Leona Lewis is to write an autobiography for release later this year, it stands to question just how many years’ experience really warrant the need to be documented.

At the tender age of 23, Leona has hardly lived a long, fulfilled life, but she has conquered Britain and America with her musical talents, and been acquainted with a whole host of well-known celebrities since winning the X-Factor almost three years ago.

With this in mind, Kay Taylor looks at a growing trend of ‘serial autobiographies’, and compares the works and motives of some of the world’s most famous autobiographers from glamour model Jordan and the highly speculated Beckhams, to the more acclaimed Sir Michael Parkinson and Julie Walters.

Last year saw the release of some pretty impressive autobiographies from the likes of Fern Britton and Paul O’Grady, and it was refreshing to witness the change from a trend of ‘young’ autobiographers to much older, seemingly wiser ones.

 

 

Autobiographies are, by definition, ‘the story of one’s own life’, which suggests that people should wait until their later years to write one. In this sense, they can cover a vast array of events and subjects, and place each one into context with the knowledge of what happened next.

The predominant problem when people write their autobiographies at such a young age is that their story is by no means over, and so their account is merely a chapter of their life.

The advantage of this is that smaller events can be included into the book, and often in much more detail than an older autobiographer could account for.

When Victoria Beckham discussed the death threats she received following the birth of her first son in her 2001 autobiography, Learning to Fly, she felt that this was an influential part of her life.

“Victoria’s first encounters with David Beckham are made all the more interesting in that we know what happened next” Jonathan Weir

 

As traumatic as those experiences must have been, nothing physically terrible actually occurred from the death threats. Because of this, it’s debatable as to whether Victoria would have chosen to include this information in an autobiography had she written it later in life, or at least covered it in as much detail.

And indeed, Amazon.com’s reviewer, Jonathan Weir, said of the book: “Her first encounters with David Beckham are made all the more interesting in that we know what happened next”.

Learning to Fly primarily documents Victoria’s early relationship with David Beckham and the break-up of the Spice Girls, and seems relatively out of date now. Since the release of her autobiography, Victoria has faced rumours of her husband’s infidelity, embarked on a successful fashion career, and had two more children.

Her solution to this predicament? Write another book.

Victoria’s second book, That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between, came out in 2006, just five years after her first attempt.

Acting as a style guide for fashion enthusiasts, That Extra Half an Inch isn’t a conventional autobiography, but it does offer an insight into the progression Victoria has made since leaving the Spice Girls.

As she says herself: “I’ve always been the girl-next-door who got lucky, and I’ve come a long way in the last ten years”.

On a similar note, Victoria’s husband David has also written two autobiographies. The football legend released his first book, David Beckham: My World, in 2000, in which he covered issues such as the World Cup fiasco and his marriage to a Spice Girl.

Next, at age 28, he released David Beckham: My Side - The Autobiography, in 2004, beating Victoria to the post once more. Here, he discussed the 1998 World Cup disgrace, again, his marriage to Victoria, again, and his upbringing, again.

 

Seemingly then, this book doesn’t so much act as a follow-on to My World, in so much that David simply re-tells the major events of his life so far, but he does include additional information such as joining the Real Madrid team in 2003 and the birth of the Beckham’s second son.

So surely it’s time that David released another book to coincide with the fact that the couple now has three children together?

Also, it must be noted that both of David’s autobiographies were written with the help of more qualified writers, Dean Freeman and Tom Watt, respectively.

As Amazon.com reviewer, Alex Hankin bluntly says: “David is well known for not being great with words. The bald fact is that, in public at least, Beckham has never uttered a single sentence half as vivid or coherent as those in My Side”.

The most notable serial autobiographer is glamour model Katie Price, who has written three autobiographies in the space of four years

 

Ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell has also released two autobiographies; If Only in 1999, and Geri: Just for the Record in 2002.

But the most notable serial autobiographer is glamour model Katie Price, also known as Jordan, who has written three autobiographies in the space of four years.

Her first shot at the job, Being Jordan, was released in 2004 when she was 26 years old. The book covered her youth and relationship with footballer Dwight Yorke, father of her disabled son Harvey.

At the time of the book’s publication, Jordan was a single mum, but by the time she released her next autobiography just two years later, titled Jordan: A Whole New World, she had appeared in the reality TV show, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here, and had fallen in love with former pop-star Peter Andre.

The couple had a son together and planned to wed, but Jordan couldn’t wait until after the wedding to release Jordan: A Whole New World, and so relied on her most recent autobiography, Jordan: Pushed to the Limits, to continue her fairy-tale, which appeared on book shelves in 2008.

 

Unlike David Beckham, Jordan refrained from repeating events from her previous autobiographies, and instead used her accounts as chronological chapters to her life. Jordan: Pushed to the Limits discussed her marriage to Peter, the birth of their daughter, the model’s subsequent post-natal depression and her disheartening miscarriage.

The advantages of this approach, as previously mentioned, is that it gives Jordan the opportunity to cover her life issues in an in-depth way, and to include many different events rather than just the most pivotal moments of her life.

This allows for plentiful anecdotes and a real insight into the star’s day-to-day life, whereas autobiographies that cover decades of time can often seem too factual, laden with dates and names, and appear less of an interesting read.

Therefore, it seems a sensible personal choice, not to mention better for their finances, when celebrities write a series of autobiographies to cater for the interests of their fans.

However, surely when a person writes an autobiography at the age of 25, they should wait another 25 years before writing their next one? The current trend of serial autobiographers seems to result that their first book is jam-packed with information from their childhood and rise to fame, and their sequels chronicle much fewer events yet in much more detail.

Jade Goody is another example of someone who waited a mere two years to release a second autobiography. Her debut, Jade: My Autobiography, came out in 2006 when she was 24 years old.

For many celebrities, it seems that a mere lack of patience, and perhaps a large amount of arrogance, encourages them to write autobiography after autobiography, with the assumption that readers really are that interested in them

 

Jade spoke of her childhood with her single mother, her experience in the Big Brother house, and her turbulent relationship with Jeff Brazier, who fathered her two children.

It could be argued that Jade didn’t initially intend to release another autobiography, at least not so soon after her first book was published, but after she appeared in Celebrity Big Brother and was widely criticised as being racist, her next chapter, Jade: Catch a Falling Star, hit the shops in 2008.

Over those previous two years, Jade had visited India in an attempt to diminish her reputation as being a racist, split up with Jeff and found out that she had cervical cancer. In this sense, it’s understandable that she had a lot to report and update her story with.

But for many celebrities, it seems that a mere lack of patience, and perhaps a large amount of arrogance, encourages them to write autobiography after autobiography, with the assumption that readers really are that interested in them.

On the other hand, those people who have accomplished enough to fill a collection of books instead choose to wait until they’re deemed old enough to write about the majority of their life in one autobiography.

Sir Michael Parkinson released his memoir, Parky: My Autobiography, in 2008 at the age of 78.

Michael’s career began as a journalist on a small newspaper in Yorkshire, and he documents his rise from local reporter to national treasure, TV and radio host, and chat-show King of British television.

The fact that he has worked in the journalism industry for over four decades warrants that he is capable of creating an autobiographic masterpiece, which would perhaps be a huge overstatement to describe the likes of the Beckhams’ and Jade Goody’s writing attempts.

Similarly, Julie Walters released her autobiography, That's Another Story: The Autobiography, at the age of 58 in 2008, which was described by Reader’s Digest reviewer, A.N. Wilson, as being “a celebrity memoir which is actually worth reading as a work of literature”.

Impressively, Julie Walter’s autobiography is currently amongst Amazon.com’s top ten bestselling autobiographies, along with Michael Parkinson, Paul O’Grady, Dawn French and Fern Britton. But this could merely account for the fact that all of these were only released a few months ago.

Paul O’Grady has also been praised for his well-written accounts in At My Mother’s Knee… and Other Low Joints: The Autobiography, which he released in 2008 at the age of 53.

Covering events from his personal and professional life as a drag queen, boxer, civil servant and TV presenter, this autobiography is written by somebody who really has experienced life to the full.

Barry Foreshaw, reviewer for Amazon.com, commented on Paul’s memoirs, saying: “When so many showbiz autobiographies these days are written by people who have a barely had a life outside of their fame, it’s refreshing to encounter one by somebody whose story would be interesting even if he were not a major TV star”.

In this sense, fame simply isn’t enough to warrant the need, or interest, for an autobiography, and perhaps the more gratifying reads are from people who have lived exciting, unusual and dramatic lives out of the limelight.

So many showbiz autobiographies these days are written by people who have a barely had a life outside of their fame Barry Foreshaw

 

Such autobiographies include Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, by Sanyika Shakur, Soldier: The Autobiography, by General Sir Mike Jackson, Autobiography of a Geisha, by Sayo Masuda and G.G. Rowley, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda and The Autobiography of a Super Tramp, by William Henry Davies and George Bernard Shaw.

These titles offer insight into a world that so many people are unfamiliar with, solely because such lifestyles are not predominantly focused on in the media, and learning about such unknown circumstances is what reading autobiographies should really be about.

Therefore, such memoirs should be given equal credit, if not more so, than those of egotistical celebrities who write a few chapters and pose for an abundance of glossy photographs to fill in the gaps.

By Kay Taylor.

With the announcement that Leona Lewis is to write an autobiography for release later this year, it stands to question just how many years’ experience really warrant the need to be documented.

At the tender age of 23, Leona has hardly lived a long, fulfilled life, but she has conquered Britain and America with her musical talents, and been acquainted with a whole host of well-known celebrities since winning the X-Factor almost three years ago.

With this in mind, Kay Taylor looks at a growing trend of ‘serial autobiographies’, and compares the works and motives of some of the world’s most famous autobiographers from glamour model Jordan and the highly speculated Beckhams, to the more acclaimed Sir Michael Parkinson and Julie Walters.

Last year saw the release of some pretty impressive autobiographies from the likes of Fern Britton and Paul O’Grady, and it was refreshing to witness the change from a trend of ‘young’ autobiographers to much older, seemingly wiser ones.

 

 

Autobiographies are, by definition, ‘the story of one’s own life’, which suggests that people should wait until their later years to write one. In this sense, they can cover a vast array of events and subjects, and place each one into context with the knowledge of what happened next.

The predominant problem when people write their autobiographies at such a young age is that their story is by no means over, and so their account is merely a chapter of their life.

The advantage of this is that smaller events can be included into the book, and often in much more detail than an older autobiographer could account for.

When Victoria Beckham discussed the death threats she received following the birth of her first son in her 2001 autobiography, Learning to Fly, she felt that this was an influential part of her life.

“Victoria’s first encounters with David Beckham are made all the more interesting in that we know what happened next” Jonathan Weir

 

As traumatic as those experiences must have been, nothing physically terrible actually occurred from the death threats. Because of this, it’s debatable as to whether Victoria would have chosen to include this information in an autobiography had she written it later in life, or at least covered it in as much detail.

And indeed, Amazon.com’s reviewer, Jonathan Weir, said of the book: “Her first encounters with David Beckham are made all the more interesting in that we know what happened next”.

Learning to Fly primarily documents Victoria’s early relationship with David Beckham and the break-up of the Spice Girls, and seems relatively out of date now. Since the release of her autobiography, Victoria has faced rumours of her husband’s infidelity, embarked on a successful fashion career, and had two more children.

Her solution to this predicament? Write another book.

Victoria’s second book, That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels and Everything in Between, came out in 2006, just five years after her first attempt.

Acting as a style guide for fashion enthusiasts, That Extra Half an Inch isn’t a conventional autobiography, but it does offer an insight into the progression Victoria has made since leaving the Spice Girls.

As she says herself: “I’ve always been the girl-next-door who got lucky, and I’ve come a long way in the last ten years”.

On a similar note, Victoria’s husband David has also written two autobiographies. The football legend released his first book, David Beckham: My World, in 2000, in which he covered issues such as the World Cup fiasco and his marriage to a Spice Girl.

Next, at age 28, he released David Beckham: My Side - The Autobiography, in 2004, beating Victoria to the post once more. Here, he discussed the 1998 World Cup disgrace, again, his marriage to Victoria, again, and his upbringing, again.