Literary perspirations

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If you are in showbiz, and you are famous, chances are you thrive on publicity, and sometimes, even notoriety.

And to take full advantage of your "star" value, whether you are a singer, model, actress or a beauty queen, you... write a book.

Seeking to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Madonna, Becks, "Iron man" Robert Downey Jr., teenybopper Miley Cyrus or country music princess Taylor Swift are Vietnamese calendar girls offering the public a candid look at the highs and lows of their lives.

Whether it is an autobiography or a work of fiction, actress-singer Le Kieu Nhu, model turned actress Phi Thanh Van, beauty queen Ha Kieu Anh and fashion model turned singer Truong Tri Truc Diem are among domestic showbiz personalities who have jumped on the literary bandwagon.

Dirty linen

Senior actress Le Van set the tone with her autobiography called Le Van Yeu va song (Le Van love and live), ghostwritten by poet Bui Mai Hanh. Van was very famous in the 1980s, starring in two Vietnamese classics Bao gio cho den thang 10 (When will October come?) and Chi Dau (Sister Dau).

The book had all the must-have elements: interesting characters, up-and-down plots, "untold secrets" and the "reality behind the glory". Van's "way of doing penance to the past", predictably, generated controversy, and earned her both bouquets and brickbats.

Van's revelation of an affair with an unnamed married director and the romantic interest that another director had in her elicited stinging criticism, especially from those directly affected by it.

Cheap thrills

Unlike Van, singer Le Kieu Nhu's novel seemed to attract universal condemnation as a tawdry effort to enhance her "sexy" image. Critics in many newspapers lambasted Nhu's book, Soi xich (The chain), as having nothing but crude sex and bad writing.

The book centers around a rustic girl, an orphan married to an "ideal" man who is impotent. Unable to make love, he puts his wife on a chain and locks her at home. But the girl still has time to commit adultery with a youngster before finding his love for her is not true.

Appearing at the book release organized at New World Hotel Saigon last March 12 in a semitransparent dress, Nhu said that her novel was not pornographic, rather that "sex was a means to tell about the human being's flesh and blood instinct, about the blind side of sex."

Conceding in effect that her rise to fame involved semi-nude, suggestive poses, Nhu claimed the novel would show her other side.

The book's price shot up from VND39,000 (US$2.06) to more than VND200,000 ($10.55) on the black market before Publisher Hoi Nha Van (Writers' Association) withdraws the book only a few days after it was released.

"˜Me too!'

With the obvious market potential for celebrity stories, especially among the youth, there has been no shortage of showbiz personalities waiting to "bare their souls."

Phi Thanh Van, better known as the "queen of plastic surgery" for her multiple facelifts has announced that she has signed a contract with a publisher to write her autobiography.

It does not seem to matter to these wannabe writers in their twenties that it might be a mite early to write their life stories.

"Now, I want to bid farewell to my past scandals, set aside the pitfalls and unresolved bitterness to build a new and mature image," said 28-year-old Van.

Van added her book should satisfy all readers curious about a celebrity's personal life.

"A one or two-page interview cannot help people figure out a person clearly. So I've decided to give them a detailed portrait."

Twenty-four-year-old Diem, Vietnam's representative at Miss Earth 2007, and also Miss Fashion, has said that her book does not just deal with her eventful career as a model, singer and actress, but also "reveals many secrets of local showbiz, through an insider's true experience."

Unlike Van, whose book will be ghostwritten "to ensure the literary quality," Diem will write her autobiography herself. It is planned to be released next month alongside her debut music album.

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