A Fine Romance: A Memoir by Candice Bergen; Simon and Schuster, 350 pages ($28). “Let me just come right out and say it. I am fat. In the past 15 years since I’ve married Marshall, I have put on thirty pounds. This is due to several factors. I am older. I am on multiple medications that slow my metabolism to a crawl and I live to eat. None of the ‘eat to live’ stuff for me. I am a champion eater. No carb is safe – no fat either.”
Candor, of course, is the whole point of a memoir. There is no point in writing one – especially if you’re a movie star who usually exists in a bubble of hype and factitious folk tales – unless you’re prepared to be candid. Even so, there is a certain candid tone one doesn’t really expect. And I’d submit the above as a perfect same of why Candice Bergen’s follow-up to her “Knock Wood” is among the more commendable celebrity memoirs you’ll encounter.
What has always been obvious – even decades ago – is that Candice Bergen can write. But she also has an ethic about it too, as is clear at the end on her “acknowledgements” pages when she admits this: “When I asked editor Betsey Rappoport to help me with this book, it was supposed to be for a period of a year …Four years later, Betsey sat in our study, her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking convulsively. ‘Betsey’ I asked, “are you laughing or crying?’ ‘I don’t know’ she said. ‘I just want this to be over.’ ”
It’s not for nothing that this woman played Murphy Brown on TV. Along with writing skill – even more than, say, Anjelica Huston’s in her two volumes of memoir – there is a journalistic ethic here as she takes you through the second volume of her life: her marriage to the late great director Louis Malle, the making of “Murphy Brown” with Diane English, the birth of her daughter Chloe, her second marriage. You may not want to know what everyone she knew gave her daughter on being born, but you’ll be impressed with everyone she knows and the candor and wisdom with which she writes about them. Without dynamiting her whole life, of course.
When she was young and more than a little spoiled by Esquire’s editors, she’d sarcastically write in a showoffy parenthesis, “writing is easy.” No it’s not. She knows that and does it well. – Jeff Simon