Review: ‘Dead Famous’ by Ben Elton

In a culture obsessed with fame and fortune, the cynically-minded revel in poking at the dark underbelly of celebrity, where scandal and secrets lie in wait for us to find. Cue Elton’s ‘Dead Famous’, a novel centring itself around the calamity that is ‘Big Brother’, a.k.a. ‘House Arrest’, and how ugly the pursuit of happiness is when tainted with misplaced ambition.

Like ‘Chart Throb’, Elton’s writing style isn’t spectacular. However, you lose sight of this almost instantly; the black humour running throughout the book, based on observations from reality, are utterly absorbing. In a perverse way, it’s refreshing to see that people know and recognise how desperate celebrity culture makes people, and how it turns them into people they shouldn’t want to be. The repetition of buzz-words was one of my favourite comic moments: the vacuousness and inability to string coherent thoughts together in a sophisticated way highlighted the fragility, and ridiculousness, of fame. Chloe’s decision to aid Coleridge with his dramatic monologue in the big reveal was hilarious; support and motivation can officially never contain the words ‘cool’ and ‘wicked’. Which brings me to the big revealer himself.

I did not warm to Coleridge; he essentially embodied how I feel about reality television, and yet there was something stopping me from following his lead. I think, essentially, he wasn’t a plausible character: there is no one on this earth who is untouched by our warped obsessions with celebrities, so to claim total ignorance with regards to everything is either a lie or shows a very limited person. In this respect, the ‘Macbeth’ role in the final throws of the novel was very fitting: suddenly, life beca

me about using and abusing your connections for Coleridge, demonstrating that even the pillars of a community can be corrupted. Perhaps this was the point: the inevitable downfall of each and every person to their own pursuits of notoriety, no matter how small or apparently insubstantial.

I’ll admit as well, I was a bit disappointed with the reveal at the end. Without giving too much away, I expected more, because I feltlike the perpetrator was the obvious candidate. Perhaps I’ve been reading too many thrillers though; I mean, who else had such a motive for such a vile and evidently entertaining crime? But then, the plot had built up to everyone having a motive; and to be honest, I was expecting the whole situation to have been staged to show the gullibility of the public when it comes to celebrity sensations. It felt too obvious, and Coleridge’s speech made it too drawn out; gone was the spark of curiosity, to be replaced with a snoring sound and a desire to tell Coleridge to just get on with it. It made it obvious where we were being led to, and eliminated the drama; not  a positive thing when the book is centred on creating drama from obscurity (the cheese incident, anyone?).

On the whole, though, for people with a wicked (not cool) sense of humour and a desire to see the world put to rights, this is an entertaining read, which confirms that life is a giant set up, and we’re all playing our own little games.

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