Don’t Quote Me: Rosie’s Detox

When enough people speak of you, and see you, in a certain way, you can become that which they think, or speak, or see. … It's a shift that happens in the head, and that very few celebrities will ever really speak about — the inflation of self, the pride. One begins to believe in the specialness, and a dangerous sense of entitlement takes over. It feels shameful to speak of, and I do not do it easily. The drunkenness is not from alcohol or morphine; it's from the steady stream of praise pouring in.

— Rosie O'Donnell, in her new book, Celebrity Detox

Sometimes, celebrity or not, we get lost in ourselves. We forget who we are and why we are, and we bounce around inside our own heads trying to find the authentic person we were before the days when we allowed our lives to live us, instead of the other way around.

If we can't find what we're looking for inside, we sometimes look outside, to those who are always willing to tell us exactly what they think of us, for answers. The problem then is that we often believe them.

It seems that Rosie O'Donnell knows what I'm talking about, because the theme running through her new book, Celebrity Detox, weaving between memories of her mother, who died when Rosie was a child; her love for her family and friends; and the highlights and disappointments of the past few years of her life, is one of authenticity — losing it, regaining it, and her ultimate frustration in trying to exercise it on The View.

A short, easy-to-read narrative that's mainly an account of her experiences since she left The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 2002, the book reveals a much more eloquent Rosie than you might expect if you've read her blog or, especially, if you've read the harsh reviews of her book.

In Celebrity Detox, Rosie's annoying — and now trademark — text message-cum-haiku writing style takes a very welcome back seat to complete sentences written with mettle. The book is a brutally honest collection of events and observations from a woman who, once caught up in what she calls "the fame game," left television for all the right reasons, but then went back — not to her own show, but to someone else's as part of a team, all the while unsure of whether working for someone else was something she could do.

Although Rosie frames the book as "the story of wondering whether I could give up the addictive elixir of fame and … sip instead of slug," it's more than that. It includes the role her mother played in influencing her love of the stage and her appreciation for strong and talented women — notably Barbara Walters and Barbra Streisand — and the ways in which her mother's illness and death affected her.

But that "more" proved too much for some reviewers.

Regardless of the impassioned ways in which Rosie examines "celebrityhood," few reviewers have chosen to focus on the heart of the work — her struggle to be authentic in the phony world of fame, and what she's learned so far.

Instead, they zoom in on the few passages that have the potential to appall readers: the pages that describe her imperfect relationship with her mother pre-illness; the self-destructive ways she sought attention after her mother's death; her "feuds" with Barbara Walters, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and, of course, Donald Trump.

I'd be lying if I said the book doesn't provide ideal ammo for critics who believe that Rosie's middle initials are T.M.I. In portions, she practically invites readers to deem her neurotic. But I'd also be lying if I said that I think the level of criticism is justified.

USA Today called Celebrity Detox "a train wreck," while Entertainment Weekly declared, "Detox isn't really a book at all, just a hate-filled, slapped-together pastiche of old blog items, truly dreadful poetry, and snippets from a discarded earlier manuscript."

Then there are those critics who didn't even read the book but, nonetheless, felt a need to spread their negative opinions of it, like Hamilton Hedrick of the Arkansas Traveler, and Vick Mickunas of the Dayton Daily News.

"Is this for real? She wrote a book?" wrote Hedrick. "The best part about [it] is that she has cancelled all of her media promotion. Thank God. Instead, she has decided to do all the promotion herself … Clearly, the voices in her head have taken control."

In his blog, Book Nook, Mickunas peddled his clueless disgust with Celebrity Detox this way: "I have never been a fan of Rosie O'Donnell's. I have always found her to be rather annoying. She has a memoir coming out soon and if the early press is any indication readers will learn some details about Rosie's horrendous childhood that might shed some light on why she is such a difficult person."

He ended his so-called review with the print equivalent of screams (capital letters) after quoting what others have said about the book. "OUCH! I still find her annoying," he wrote. "Now I also find her to be sad, pathetic, almost worthy of sympathy … I said ALMOST."