As celebrity biographies go, this barely readable one hits rock bottom
All the ingredients for a rip-roaring good read are here. A talented actress makes an Oscar-nominated name for herself in the talkies (Cinderella Liberty), marries and divorces “the most successful living playwright” in America (Neil Simon), has affairs with well-known if not superstar film and sports notables (Al Freeman, Keith Hernandez), was introduced to car racing by Paul Newman, and reflects on the rewards and shortcomings of the actor’s life. Then there’s the account of the unhappy Catholic childhood with a physically abusive, alcoholic father and an unresponsive mother; the battles with low self-esteem and repressed anger; the failed first marriage (he turned out to be gay, but not until after they were divorced); the years of therapy; and, at last, a guru who showed her the way to happiness. We even have the shadow of the ever-popular multiple personality, with (at last count) 12 different characters living inside Mason’s head, commenting on her behavior and her thoughts, although not exhibiting themselves in public. They include G.A. (Guardian Angel), The Pusher, The Critic, two Inner Children, and The Warrior (“think Daniel Day Lewis as the intrepid last of the Mohican scouts”). The story is framed as a journey within a journey, with the author setting out on a move from Los Angeles to New Mexico by car (actually, with three cars and two moving vans) and enduring flashbacks all along the way, from her childhood in St. Louis to recollections of Simon’s “special place in my heart.” She’s now a farmer of organic herbs and an occasional actress (including a continuing role on the sitcom Frasier), with only positive (but not insightful) words to say about anyone except herself.
At one point in the narrative, an inner voices shouts, “such a cliché, cliché, cliché!” Indeed.