Kirstie Alley may be that famous “Fat Actress” but at heart she’s just a boy-crazy, 16 year old school girl. The former star of Cheers and the Look Who’s Talking franchise has tackled her weight issues in her previous book, How to Lose Your Ass & Regain Your Life. Her current one, The Art Of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente) is a different beast altogether and centres solely on her fascination with the male species.
The book is classed as an autobiography but Alley also sees it as a humorous self-help manual. It’s sold as being about celebrating the good ones, warning about the bad and shaming the outright ugly men she’s encountered in her 62 years on earth and who ultimately, helped shape her.
It’s an interesting formula considering that most people have their fair share of anecdotes about complex, beautiful, troublesome, gentle and horrible men (and women) they’ve known. But few have had the opportunity, fame or foresight to commit this to paper and the fact is this format really doesn’t work.
Alley’s strength is that she is frank and conversational but the lack of narrative thread can make for rambling and disjointed reading. At times the proceedings seem closer to a journal or series of blog posts or it could just be something she remembered in a therapy session or ten. Alley’s life does seem like a smorgasbord of diva stardom where she picks and chooses men like some people change clothes.
It seems that Alley is trying to present this as an honest, no-holds barred tale but some parts of her life are glossed over (i.e. her “fat” period, the breakdown of her second marriage and her daughter (granted it’s a book about men but she gets around two sentences). Some claims are simply outrageous- like saying she took enough cocaine to kill several people, while others feel exaggerated (like the bad dream being compared to a “Satanic coven”).
There are lots of people that admire Alley’s work but whether they will feel the same way after reading this book is another story. She always did seem likeable but here she presents herself as a home wrecker or chronic flirt that falls for men at the drop of a hat. She sensationally claims she had an emotional affair with Patrick Swayze (tacky as he’s passed away) and that she had her own real-life encounter with a Christian Grey-like character. She’s also been married twice and did consider ending the last one much earlier in order to run off and get hitched to John Travolta.
The fact is that Alley is as vivacious and enthusiastic in her story as she is her acting. But the second half of the book (i.e. after becoming a Hollywood film star) is just a series of rendezvous about would-be husbands, old flames and flirtations with her leading men (although this is with the exception of the men she gushes and fawns over i.e. directors like José Quintero and Woody Allen and geniuses like Prince and Sidney Poitier).
This autobiography could be a fun and hilarious romp but it actually grows rather repetitive and tiresome. Alley’s biggest pitfall is how shallow and self-absorbed she seems. She describes outfits worn 25 years ago in pain-staking detail and constantly reminds the reader how fit she was in her size two jeans. This is at odds with the self-deprecating humour found elsewhere and at her worst Alley comes across as simply crazy or delusional.
There is also a chapter about Alley’s Scientology beliefs where she reverts to preaching about the faith. Some fans may appreciate this insight into her character, but the descriptions about her family i.e. her father, grandfather and son are more honest and candid, because they lack the pretension and obvious name-dropping that mar the other chapters.
The Art Of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente) is like the book equivalent of a rare steak. There are some readers that will find it half-baked and undercooked while others will enjoy the taste of an irreverent woman who speaks her mind through a puff piece. It’s an autobiography that won’t win any grand prizes in literature but it should sell copies thanks to Alley’s fame. Even so, I was left occasionally thinking she should have retained a little more mystery about her kooky, celebrity-filled life.
Originally published on 3 February 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/book-review-kirstie-alley-the-art-of-men-i-prefer-mine-al-dente
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/