The turtlenecked gurus of the literary canon be damned, for it has come to pass that the first novel by Pamela Anderson has attained its rightful place on the bestseller lists.
"Can you believe it?" This is Anderson herself, the auteur and publicity-shy recluse speaking via cellular telephone from somewhere in the hills of Malibu. "So for the rest of my life, in addition to everything else they say about me, I can be called the New York Times best-selling author." Her "Star: A Novel" is No. 13, just behind Stephen King's latest.
As Gustave Flaubert brought forth his Emma Bovary and Edith Wharton her Lily Bart, women loved and lost in cruel worlds, so Anderson has created Esther Wood Leigh, the can-do naif from the trailer parks of Arcady Key in windblown South Florida. Humbly known as "Star," she journeys from the wait staff at Mother Pearl's Steak and Oyster Emporium (baby tee: SHUCK ME, SUCK ME, EAT ME RAW) and Zax Beer posters to the glossy pages of Mann magazine, and then to the pinnacle of fortune and fame on the hit TV show "Lifeguards Inc."
And all along, Star is accompanied by her faithful companion(s), "a pair of unruly and self-willed nipples."
Kafka had his fantastical cockroach, but that was kind of weird. Anderson employs similar technique, but better, bestowing upon Star's mammary glands an animate independence. They're aaaaalive! Her breasts, a character in themselves, make their first inauspicious appearance on Page 3 as mere "lumps," but that is just foreshadowing the adventures these two have. "Her breasts," Anderson writes in "Star," "came on suddenly and tenaciously, as if trying to make up for lost time."
Oh, the humanity. The breasts are ogled , massaged, tweaked, harassed and worshiped. But what they're really searching for is . . . love.
In one harrowing scene (which Anderson leavens with lots of "giggling"), the twins are surgically enhanced with silicone.
This was no easy decision to make. As Teresa, Star's best friend from her Arcady Key days, tells her, with that here-it-comes tone, "You know, you got a pretty great set. It took you long enough, but there they are. They got you the job at Mother's. They got you the standing ovation at the Dolphins game. They got you the job with Zax. And they got you the cover of Mann magazine. What makes you think you need more?'' But Star, willful filly, does need more. She gets the implants. Why? Oh, gentle reader, "for confidence," of course.
Pamela Anderson breaks new ground in other ways. For one, she didn't actually "write" her novel, in the traditional meaning of the term. Writing is so 20th century. What Anderson and publisher Simon & Schuster's Atria Books did was hire another writer to write the novel with her.
"I know how to write a column," Anderson says of her dots-and-dashes work for Jane magazine. "But a book? Like chapters, how many pages are in a chapter? How many chapters in a book? I needed some guidance."
Anderson explains, too, that she didn't want to be burdened by a lot of work. She's a busy mom. She's got a new clothing line. She's down with charities for PETA and Hepatitis C, which she suffers from. So every Friday, while little Brandon, 8, and Dylan, 6 (father: Tommy Lee), were at school, Eric Shaw Quinn (author of "Say Uncle," about a gay uncle who raises an orphan), would come by the house.
"He's fantastic," Anderson says. "Sometimes I feel like a gay man trapped in this body, and he said, well, that's the body a gay man would choose!"
The two, how they laughed and laughed. "Sometimes until we almost vomited," Anderson admits.
This kind of writing needed fuel, so Anderson hired a chef for their Friday noonish sessions. "He'd spoil us," she says. The novelist would dash off pages on her legal pad, with Quinn whipping the lash for more sexy scenes.
To wit: "Star, this is Bambina. We were just talking and she's got implants, too. But I don't think they feel the same as yours do. Here, feel, he said, taking her hand and placing it on Bambina's breast."
Anyway, then Quinn would go away for a week and type them up in his computer, adding things like structure, narrative, details, dialogue, commas and periods.
For seven whole months.
So, doing the math, seven months, every Friday, multiply seven times four -- that's a 294-page novel in 28 days. It is almost awesome to contemplate what could have been accomplished in 33 days.
But the roman a clef, Anderson stresses, is all Pamela. "If you read the book, you know he got my voice," she says. "He did a lot of work. Obviously, he typed the whole thing out, but you can tell these are my stories. It was a collaboration. But he really knew how to put it together with a beginning, middle and an end."
Anderson, 37, from British Columbia, was a waitress before being discovered by Playboy while wearing a tight tee on a Jumbotron at a football game, made a splash in the magazine, was hired as the Tool Time Girl on Tim Allen's TV show "Home Improvement," went on to "Baywatch," married rocker Tommy Lee and did a little video about their honeymoon.
Or, as her publicists put it, a novel "that goes well beyond the cliched air-kisses and casting couches of Hollywood to show what really happens when A-list meets D-cup."
Anderson is asked about her literary inspiration. "I don't read novels," she says. She prefers books about dreams, past lives and elves.
When asked about Joan Collins as a role model for the model-actress turned novelist, Anderson demurs. Not. Really. Sure. Who. What? It doesn't matter. Quinn put a Collins reference in the book.
Anyway, Anderson is "very happy. I don't get good reviews for anything. I'm getting a real kick out of it." The Internet bookseller Amazon.com called her novel "funny, sexy, utterly compelling."
As Anderson sees it, "you can either read it on the beach or the toilet. It's not like it's a difficult read."
Or is it?
Stay tuned, Anderson and Quinn are busy on the sequel, "Star Struck." They plan on writing this next one even faster.