How-To Guide on The Tell-All Memoir
Posted at 7:23 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2012
The David H. Petraeus/Paula Broadwell scandal has receded from the headlines a bit, which means it’s only a matter of time before some publishing house approaches Broadwell for the next step in her life: the tell-all memoir.
For guidance, HOH has lessons Broadwell might do well to observe from an unlikely source: the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter affair.
In both cases, a powerful man became involved with a biographer/videographer who swooned over his exceptionalism. Through tragically comic events, people found out.
So taking a cue from Hunter’s uber-gossipy “What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter and Me,” HOH has some tips on how Broadwell can pen a compulsively readable tell-all.
1. Have a Personality.
The main point the reader takes from Hunter’s book is this: She is not crazy. She is, however, deliciously shameless.
The high point of this low-brow book is the woman’s sharp voice. Her sarcasm and chatty storytelling make her a flawed, if (gasp!) likable, narrator. Hunter truly believes her affair with Edwards deserved privacy and respect. She chastises the media that made her the center of Edwards’ self-destructive storm. She says she finds politics boring, the staffers obsessive and adoring of Edwards, and the race for president to be a distraction for “Johnny.”
2. If You’re Going to Tell All, Tell It All.
In the world of predictable campaign memoirs and political analysis, Hunter’s stands out because she glories in her disdain for the political world and its mores. Her story begins in New York City and ends with her daughter in North Carolina, but it is the middle of the book — the secret meet-ups with Edwards, the fights with his staffers, the drama surrounding his late wife, Elizabeth, and Hunter’s utter disdain for the media — that makes this memoir hard to put down.
Hunter lays out intimate details of Edwards’ love life, from the sex-tape filmed in Africa to his post-coital room service orders. Along the way, she ends up painting a complete image of the candidate — he is a better speaker after one glass of wine, he eats at the Daily Grill in Georgetown, he had multiple affairs before Hunter came along replete with secret cellphones — than the press could ever do.
Sure, her story is salacious, but it also gives a high-definition close-up of a powerful man and his complete professional decline.
3. Have Some Respect.
Broadwell, take note: You don’t have to like everyone you talk about, but show some respect or you’ll lose your audience. Hunter fails at this, especially when she expresses her contempt for Edwards’ staffers. No candidate is perfect, and staffers everywhere work double-time to emphasize the candidate’s charms, while trying to hide the flaws. That the Edwards staff struggled to do this despite Hunter and her influence speaks more highly of them than of the author.