Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes, any book publicity can be too much book publicity.

They say that all book promotion is good book promotion, and I used to believe that, but here's a story that's changed my mind. Raise your hand if you wanted to know that John Phillips (founder of the Mamas and the Papas, who sang so lightheartedly and harmoniously about how "California dreamin' was becoming a reality" back in the sixties) raped his drug-addled daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, and that rape eventually devolved into a "consensual relationship."

Mackenzie is all over the media -- Oprah, People, CNN, and much more -- airing unspeakably horrible stories about her father, her own arrest for possession of heroin at an airport, and the like. All of those media appearances are the Holy Grail for authors, publishers, and book publicists. I mean, who doesn't see an appearance on "Oprah" as the greatest book promotion opportunity of all time?

But my original question was: do you really want to know that John Phillips daughter, who played the elder fictional daughter on a Norman Lear sit-com called "One Day at a Time," has lived a nightmarish life? Do you honestly want to see the details of that nightmare?

I suspect that, for many of us, some nightmares are best left unexamined, and Mackenzie's media blitz may be an example of wasted book promotion opportunities. I'm a huge fan of the Mamas and the Papas, and I don't think I missed an episode of any series Norman Lear ever produced, but Mackenzie's story (true or not) is not on the list of those I'd want to read. I have to believe I'm not alone.

No one's denying a former child star the right to catharsis, and I hope Mackenzie is on the road to recovery and health. But buy her book? I don't think that's going to happen for me. I don't even feel moved to mention the title of it here.