I was saddened to learn this morning of the death of novelist Jackie Collins.
I’ve never read a Jackie Collins book.
Her subject matter – the beautiful and the decadent, the rich and the decadent, the famous and the decadent – well, you get the idea – has no appeal for me.
But I’m not oblivious to her impact her books had on millions of readers – and one very special person in particular.
My family didn’t have much. When people ask about my family, I point to the TV show “Roseanne.” We were “Roseanne” poor.
Both my parents worked, mostly in drudge jobs with horrible hours, and we constantly lost ground no matter how much effort they put in. One car breakdown, one medical emergency, would put the family on the brink of financial disaster. And we teetered there a lot.
My mother sacrificed so much for her four children. But she allowed herself one gift – whenever a new Jackie Collins novel came out, she would buy it –
– in hardcover.
Unless you come from a blue collar background, I’m not sure you can appreciate what an extravagance that was. We were, let me say, strictly a paperback family. Hardcovers were damn expensive, luxury items that might as well be on par with new TVs.
But my mother allowed herself this one treat. And I can remember, she would wait for a Friday night, when her kids were all doing other things, and she would get herself a cold drink and she’d sit and she’d crack open that book and she’d love every minute of the world Jackie Collins welcomed her into.
For a few hours, she didn’t have to think about her crappy job, those mounting bills, or her difficult marriage.
My mother enjoyed her writing because her heroines enjoyed glamorous lives and had exciting adventures. As Collins famously explained, her women kicked ass, they didn’t have their asses kicked.
Jackie Collins helped millions of readers escape.
It’s a funny thing about writing: Every author wants to reach the widest audience possible, but if the writer becomes too popular, too famous, she is accused of being too commercial and her work isn’t taken as seriously.
Your work sells? Oh, that’s a bad thing.
Isn’t the whole point of writing to tell stories that reach the greatest number of people?
On that score, Jackie Collins was an undeniable success.
A couple years ago, I actually got a chance to thank Collins on behalf of my mother on Twitter. Her response:
Jackie Collins was a powerhouse.
Jackie Collins died of breast cancer, the same disease that claimed the life of my mother.
Fuck breast cancer.