A while back, having received multiple messages of scorn from my Facebook ‘fan’ page of Liz Jones, I made sure that people knew this most definitely wasn’t a page that Liz Jones had any control or input in. It’s largely unsurprising though: Liz’s reputation as a columnist has continued to grow within the digital world in a stratospheric fashion. With the continuing increase of clicks per article come a growing voice of objection to her values and ideas with one of the biggest critics of late being the major ‘superstar’ of the moment, Rihanna. The singer perceptively used the major app of the moment, Instagram to launch a stinging attack on the ‘menopausal’ Liz (by far and away one of the tamest ‘tags’ for Liz, who once received the dubious title, Jiz Jones after her article on sperm stealing from an ex-boyfriend) as a riposte for her article calling into question Rihanna’s ‘role model’ status.
Having attracted a sustained attack from the public and the rival press companies, what could Liz’s motivation be for writing her most detailed memoir to date? In a cultivation of what I presume to be financial, Liz-in-the-black-twice-in-her-life has put her mournful tale out for total consumption without a single shred of subterfuge; but what is even more interesting about this ‘cautious’ text is Tracey Emin’s rousing endorsement about how Liz ‘keeps going’, as well as Liz’s rather odd recommendation that this book teaches the female population ‘how not to be a women.’ (Note: Liz previously wrote a diary indicating future marital bliss – How One Single Girl Got Married and a follow up charting the inevitable divorce, The Exmoor Files. The original diary is mocked by the author straight from the bat implying her appetite for happiness has disintegrated, and her Noah’s Ark homage (in the West Country) is completely ignored. In my humble opinion her second book is fairly easy to read in a sitting or two.)
Away from the rather negative reasons why this book came to fruition – and the financial noose that hangs over Liz, there is also crucial evidence to suggest the ‘Queen of Confessional Journalism’ (Radio 4’s piqued moniker, something she incredibly thinks is both melodramatic and not applicable for her) demonstrates a candour that lies so empty within her personal realm. This is her sensual world according to her logic and her logic only. Fashion, Fasting and Fleet Street is the subheading to the book, although they play a lowly second to her scaling of personal relationships; sex and the body (or rather her dissection and evisceration); and her self-preservation. Before we look carefully to these themes, let’s delve into whether this book actually works as a piece of candid advice, a pity party narrative or a story of a girl ‘least likely to’ live and let live, to weep and accept failure so pathetically and desperately. Really it is to my eyes, a courageous and almost invasive combination of all three. The narrative is raw and the blame sometimes evasive; mistakes are addressed with a frustrating ‘what if’ musing whilst there is an unnerving intensity of self-hatred, fear and narcissism coursing through the text.
Starting with the painful, lonely demise of Mummy Dearest we are unflinchingly led open-eyed into the open diary. Liz on one hand regrets not appreciating mama (in the book she says her critics are most vocal about the way she makes her personal relationships a theme within her writing with no apparent filter or indication this could be a betrayal) yet also dismisses her for the domesticity she represented: ‘a woman who largely wanted for nothing but to protect her children’ and who was ‘virtually their [the children’s] servant’. Liz notes the irony of her 180 degree move away from her parents’ prudence and austerity. That prologue remains the argument into her life problems, namely not being adventurous, nor outrageous, whilst she also pines for a real life vision of the Waltons. It is an entirely fair and lucid psychological concept to suggest a parent’s phobia and paranoia will erode the confidence of the child and the example she frequently sites is her mum being continually concerned Liz may be struck by a dangerous driver at any time. This sort of fear crystallises in all of her thoughts, making her always feel socially inferior. These faults when admitted are, to my mind, cathartic for her and refreshing to us. This biography isn’t profoundly dynamic, instead it indicates Liz never leaves the default mechanisms of childhood and non-existent self-belief.
Early faults continue with an equal mix of acceptance and bewilderment – for a woman who seemingly hates women she reveals she has only had one male friend. A fixated realist she admits to siphoning friends like a thief would a bank. The obvious error the reader can quickly note (which she continually addresses but doesn’t act on) is her belief in buying love, trust and friendship. This is clearly negative because it exacerbates her victim complex and pigeonholes why her channels of hindsight need to be thoroughly restructured, refurbished and remodeled. Away from condemning the narrator as a victim, I’m sure the reader can also see, if the narrative is truthful, a sadness that so many took advantage of her.