Open Book, by Jessica Simpson
As an artist, Jessica Simpson has always been one of those b-level singers who had modest success but whose main contribution to the cultural zeitgeist has been her cluelessness about tuna as being the chicken of the sea (spoiler alert: that is discussed here, along with many other clueless moments). If I am not and have never been a particular fan of her, she never struck me as being an active cancer within society and a threat to the well-being of our nation the way that many “creative types” are in our corrupt contemporary age. Rather, this book reinforces my tendency to view Simpson as essentially a well-meaning and honest and sincere person who is not particularly intelligent and is especially not witty in the moment, but who strives to learn from her mistakes and grow and improve as a person and face her struggles, and I have a lot of respect for her. This book increases my respect of her in her honesty in dealing with her body image, her struggle with the effects of child abuse in anxiety and resulting alcoholism as a way of coping with both, and her desire to be a good mom and a successful person in all walks of life. If the author’s life has been at least a little messy, she has always tried to make the best of it and her desire to please others rather than stubbornly live in her own misguided and wrongheaded lifestyle makes her at least somewhat sympathetic here.
This book is four parts and a bit more than 400 pages long. The prologue begins with a touch of intimacy. After that the first part contains five chapters that talk about the childhood of Jessica Simpson and her first brush with near-fame as a failed contestant for the new Mouseketeers, where she was competing with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera and just missed the cut. The second part of the book looks at the period of her initial pop success and her relationship and marriage with Nick Lachey, which appears particularly misguided in retrospect, and it makes the music industry look quite abusive in its approach towards starlets. The third part of the book looks at the period where Simpson kept trying to release albums to diminishing success while dealing with life as a divorced woman who was not so shiny and young. Finally, in the fourth part of the book, we get chapters looking at her second marriage (having overcome the threat of being with guys like John Mayer), and her efforts as a businesswoman and her struggle with overcoming alcoholism and trying to write music again, even if it isn’t likely to hit the charts anytime soon.
In reading this book, it appears that Jessica Simpson has done a good job in letting others know what she is about. She talks about her family life, which is complicated, her relationships, which is what a lot of people will appreciate, and her struggle to help other women deal with issues of bullying about their weight and physical appearance. Being called a fatty for wearing size 4 mom jeans at a chili cook-off is terrible, and there is little wonder that Simpson felt it necessary to explore the bullying over body image and its terrible effects for women. Likewise, it is also terrible to see the damage that Simpson faced over being molested by a peer who was herself being abused by someone else, showing how it is that damage spreads. And there is a sense, if the reader is sympathetic to Simpson at all, at the end of the book that the author has gotten in a better place, and if she is not the sort of person who is going to write a book about having her best life now and how it is that others can be as successful as she can, at least the reader is left with respect for someone whose life has been a struggle and who has done well and sought to live honorably. And that is well worth respecting and appreciating, even with the flaws and messiness of her life on occasion.