Kathi Kannon is the daughter of a famous actress mother, and went on to gain her own fame as Princess Talara in the space spectacular, Nova Quest. She has gone on to work as a script doctor and written several novels, but several decades later she is a star in decline. She is famous, outrageous and always looking for the next thrill, and needs a personal assistant. Enter Charlie Besson, a young man from New Orleans who has transplanted himself to Los Angeles. He is searching for something, anything, that will bring purpose to his currently miserable existence. When he is suggested as a replacement as Kannon’s new personal assistant, Charlie hopes that working for his childhood hero will provide him with the purpose he is lacking in his life. The old idiom warns us to “be careful what you wish for,” something which Charlie should have heeded, because he is certainly about to get more than he bargained for.
In his debut novel, Byron Lane, a former personal assistant to actress/icon Carrie Fisher, tells a tale that, as stated clearly and hilariously at the beginning of the novel, is fiction and the product of Lane’s imagination. And yet, it seems so clearly to be referencing the famously troubled and triumphant Fisher that it is impossible to read it without seeing her in the character of Kathi Kannon. The layer of veneer separating Lane’s story from reality is microscopically thin, and seemingly intentional, since Lane’s time working for Fisher is being referenced in the promotion of the novel. This adds an extra layer to the reading of the book, especially in light of the tragic end of Fisher’s life in December of 2016.
While Kannon/Fisher’s exploits are what may draw readers to the novel, the real story that Lane is telling involves two damaged people who find, and attempt to help, each other. Kannon is a star on the decline, with an ardent fan base, who only see her as a specific character, and with addiction/mental health issues. She is in constant pursuit of sensation, whether it is the shock/rage/adoration she engenders in others, or the sense of wonder and exhilaration she seeks to battle, or her continual feelings of ennui. Charlie is a troubled young man who watched one parent die and was raised by the other abusive parent. He is struggling to find not only his place in the world but to make a meaningful connection. Their shared needs create a gravitational force, pulling Charlie into Kannon’s orbit. Working for her provides him with the sense of purpose he’s been lacking. As the novel progresses, the question becomes will Charlie learn enough from Kannon to be able to break away from her as she continues on her inevitable path of self-destruction.
Lane also examines the capricious nature of fame, the allure of those that have it, how those who have it use it, what they will do to regain it if lost, and the different levels of fame that exist, and must be navigated, in the entertainment industry. When Charlie becomes Kannon’s assistant, he is endowed with a level of fame that he must learn to wield and, at times, avoid. Lane describes notoriety as a fascinating and frightening double-edged sword that creates a vicious and endless Sisyphean circle for those pursuing, attempting to regain, or avoid fame they’ve earned in ways that are unwanted.
A Star Is Bored is a fun read with tinges of the bittersweet.
Available in e-media