23 March 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow, mean girl author

There was an article in the New York Times last week about cookbook ghostwriters -- people who specialize in helping chefs, who are busy and maybe not the most eloquent in writing, refine their recipes and collect them into books. The article quoted a writer I had never heard of named Julia Turshen, who has worked with actress and self-proclaimed lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow on some of her books and was described as "collaborating" and "writing with" Paltrow on her book MY FATHER'S DAUGHTER.

Apparently that was more credit than Paltrow was willing to give. She took to her newsletter, GOOP, to "defend" herself:

(Note: I inexplicably subscribe to but almost never read this newsletter.)

After the Times refused to print a correction, Paltrow also went on "Rachael Ray" to clarify that Turshen was her "assistant" and, "I wrote my book and it's all mine."

Okay, so maybe "ghostwriting" is not the exact term that Paltrow would use. But this is starting to reek like when Hollywood actresses (ahem) talk about themselves as "working mothers" and deny having childcare. (Impressive counter-example: Poehler, 2011.) I prefer the estimation of Sari Botton, who has worked as a ghostwriter (and isn't afraid to say it!):
So maybe Gwyneth uttered or typed every one of the words in her cook book. But I doubt strongly she put it all together without a great deal of Turshen’s help. No, fuck “help.” I doubt she did it without Turshen’s hard work.
Why is it so hard to admit that you have help? Every author has help. Some just pay more for it. Whatever the hell else Paltrow does with all her free time (I have no idea) she'd like us to think she sweated blood and tears over every single recipe in her books. But she probably had photographers to take the pictures -- and someone to get the groceries for the foods featured in the pictures -- and even if she hadn't worked with Turshen someone would have edited her writing, likely for content and mechanics. That is what editors do! And even if you don't have Paltrow-Martin levels of money, you could hire a freelance editor to help you with your manuscript, or just to get a fresh pair of eyes on the thing. And if you don't have any money, you could ask your friends to read it (this is my plan). Or your professors if you're in college or graduate school. Or your parents. Or your cat?

Getting into an unprofessional snit about it just makes her look, shall we say, less involved in her cookbooks than I might otherwise have guessed. (Or bad at non-disclosure agreements... take your pick.)

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