I don’t usually like to cross-post my book reviews from GoodReads because it feels like a cheat. But this book was–and is–important for anyone struggling with addiction. I know many people in all facets of my life who struggle themselves or have family members struggling, and I think the information Claudia Christian has in her biography about a possible cure (yes, you read that right) for addiction is a thing to take notice of. At the same time I felt mightly strongly about the book as a whole, and wanted to put my take on it as widely as possible, with the hope of discussing the book in the comments with anyone else who has either read this one or is familiar with the Sinclair Method. So I’m doing what I seldom do and copy-pasting from Goodreads.
This is what I thought of Claudia Christian’s ghosted autobiography, Babylon Confidential. (It’s a bit longer than my standard entry, so I’ve more-tagged it for the sake of the blog’s front page.)
The farther I got into this book the more I kept feeling like I’d heard the story somewhere before. It just kept seeming more and more familiar as CC travelled the globe, slept with dozens of men, partied on Dodi Fayed’s yacht and had abortion after abortion (some therapeutic, some spontaneous.)
Then I realised….this book is a very very long and prosaic version of that Charlene song “I’ve Never Been To Me.” You know, the one where a washed up party girl harangues a housewife with tales of her bygone glory and wails about how out of touch her years of high living left her.
“Oh, I’ve been to
NieceNice and the Isle of Greece while I’ve sipped champagne on a yacht
I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me”
That’s this book in a nutshell. Well, the first half of it anyway. The second half of it aims to be a poor woman’s Bukowski as we watch CC lurch from drunken bottom to drunken bottom. This is always my least favourite part of an addict memoir–that woe-was-me recounting of all the ways in which they did horrible things at the behest of their illness. I’ve been at parties where groups of AA veterans gather in one room away from the keg and try to outdo each other with tales of misery and imagination. It’s irritating to me, like it’s a competition as to who stole the most money from the most trusting relative, who embarrassed themselves the most and was the cruellest to those who loved them. “Then there was the time I threw up on my little girl in her princess costume after I drank three bottles of vanilla extract that we were going to use to make her birthday cupcakes.”
There’s a happy ending of sorts, as Christian ambassadors for the Cure For Alcoholism that she endorses. The Sinclair Method involves not abstaining from drink, as you would suspect, but rather retraining your brain’s chemistry to drink in moderation by reprogramming the opiod pathways of the brain. It sounds plausible, workable, and inexpensive. (Indeed, the Sinclair Method physicians claim that it hasn’t caught on yet because it’s such a cheap cure that it will bankrupt the billion-dollar rehab industry.) The science geek in me will continue to follow studies on the Sinclair Method with great interest. There are too many addicts in my life for me to not perk up at the thought of a workable physical cure for addictions.
Speaking of science geekery–if, like me, you picked this up because you’re a die-hard B5 fan and wanted to reminisce about the show’s glory days and read detailed information about its creation…you’re screwed. There’s less time spent on B5 than there is on Dodi Fayed’s stupid boat. The only real “dish” is that Michael O’Hare was a class-A jerk. That’s something that any fan knew, given his early departure from the show, so that was about as much news as finding out that the show was set in space. All in all there’s about 2/3rds of a chapter devoted to working on Babylon 5, and most of that is spent on talking about her affair with the director of Photography and how good he made her look onscreen. Seriously.
Frankly, I blame the ghostwriter for much of the problem with this book. Unlike really great celebrity memoirs, there’s no real sense of time or place or era in this story. It’s pretty much just a list of the many men bedded by Christian and the many times life broke her heart. It’s a shame because there’s actually the meat of a great bonkbuster novel here. In the hands of a better writer this book could have been unputdownable along the lines of a Jackie Collins or Olivia Goldsmith. Instead it’s the most prosaic accounting possible.
I do actually respect CC for not gossiping rudely about co-stars. That respect is watered down by the fact that any role she had, including walk-on parts in 80s TV movies is said to be a project she “starred” in. If she acted as Girl #3 in a film with, say, Tyrone Power (yeah, I couldn’t think of a real life example) she says “I starred with Tyrone Power in The Man Who Was Everything.” So that was another irritation.
Overall I’d say that I recommend the last few chapters of this book to anyone who has struggled with addiction–their own or that of a loved one. Those chapters are 4 stars, as they go into great detail about the Sinclair Method. (Named for a Dr. Sinclair, not Michael O’Hare’s character on B5.) The rest of the book is a solid 1.5 star affair. So I’m giving it a 2-star average.