Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Uncommon Knowledge

An interesting read....

I just finished the book titled "Uncommon Knowledge" written by Judy Lewis. She was the love child of Loretta Young and Clark Gable. The book was recommended in a list of books which portray a narcissistic parent an ACON email group I belong to. I ordered a used book from Amazon Marketplace.

If you like biographical books about Hollywood stars, you'll probably like this one. There are many interesting characters that pop up throughout the narrative. The author is not whiny and doesn't seem to exaggerate. In fact, I got the feeling she underplays certain themes quite a bit. It feels like she gives her mother the benefit of the doubt more than she needs to. The crux of Judy's narrative is the secret of her conception and birth that carried on for decades. Judy was told that she was adopted. Somewhere along the way, she is not sure when, she understood that her mother was her biological parent. Then the only question in her mind was, who was her father? She didn't get a direct answer from her mother on this until Judy was in her 30's. It was supposed to remain a secret in perpetuity as far as Loretta was concerned.

I was not sure that Loretta Young was a narcissist even as far as half way through the book. Judy's perspective of her mother is probably the reason for that. It isn't until Judy gets older that the narrative reveals more and more of the pathologically narcissistic behaviors of her mother. Prior to that, Loretta Young appears to be just aloof and neglectful.....her husband (Judy's step-father), Tom Lewis, seems to be the only narcissist in the story. The picture begins to come into sharper focus as Judy becomes old enough to assert herself or to question her mother. By the time I got to the last 100 pages of the book, I'm seeing a description of my own narcissistic mother. The attitudes, the behaviors, the sly put-downs, the need to be constantly admired, the instant dismissal of anyone or anything that threatens force reality onto the consciousness of the narcissist, etc. For myself, the book also made me realize that my mother acted the role of "movie star" even though she never was one.

What is intriguing to me is that Judy Lewis went to college in her forties to become a clinical psychologist. Why doesn't she seem to ever even toy with the idea that her mother had a personality disorder? Maybe the answer lies in the timing of the book. Judy was finally estranged from her mother at the age of 51. After the rift, Judy decides it is time for her to be able to publicly claim her paternity so she writes the book. It comes out three years into her estrangement with her mother in the year 1994. I think it is clear that Judy was still hoping for a reconciliation. I suspect that hope explains why she seems to downplay the malignancy of her mother's treatment of her, as well as why Judy doesn't throw out psychology based theories and diagnoses of her mother. Loretta was suspicious and hostile toward psychology.

I went hunting on the Internet and found out from an interview with Judy Lewis in the year 2002. She explains that the book coming out deepened the rift between her and her mother. This is not surprising because the cause of the rift between mother and daughter was Loretta's belief that Judy was writing a tell-all book....a rumor that wasn't true at the time. Apparently, after 12 years of estrangement Judy and her mother reconciled until Loretta's death from ovarian cancer in 2001 three years after the reconciliation. I don't think that reconciliation could have occurred if Judy had dared to assign narcissistic personality disorder to her mother in the book or had taken harsher views of her mother's behaviors.

You can read it for yourself and decide if Loretta Young was a full-blown narcissist. I think she was. I also think that she worsened with seems to be the trend with narcissists. Especially when age dims their beauty or fame. Judy was not privy to her mother's professional relationships. I suspect many people saw the narcissism because her nick-name in Hollywood became the "Iron Butterfly"....a moniker that Loretta took some pride in. She was known for being able to always get her way. Narcissism is more the norm in Hollywood. People expect a certain amount of it there....and seem to think it is justified in movie stars. You rarely see condemnation of narcissism coming from Hollywood about Hollywood. One of the best movies about Hollywood stars and their narcissistic preoccupation with beauty and/or fame is "Death Becomes Her". I always am greatly entertained by the morbid yet comedic portrayal of a couple of somatic narcissists. Of course, it allows me to laugh out loud at my own mother's extreme vanity....I see a portrayal of her in that movie and it does me great good to be able to laugh at her ridiculousness. It is funny as long as you aren't actually living in it.


Julia Riber Pitt said...

This is one of my favorite books. I do believe Loretta was pretty narcississtic, because her deeply held religious beliefs made her feel shameful and prevented her from telling Judy the truth. Religious people usually go to great lengths in order to hide their "sin" from others, especially Christian celebrities who answer to their church as well as the moral codes.

This book would actually be a very good read for a rhetorical writing class in college. It's so easy to examine it and see how the lessons relate to society. The kind of social conservatism of that era, when two celebrities could lose their careers if it was revealed they had a child together (or just slept together, considering how Gable was in a crappy marriage at the time). Anyways, it's a good book overall.

Tundra Woman said...

Yk, here we are in the last quarter of 2013. And while society was more conservative during that time, other social mores have evolved that still appear to prevent ACONs from speaking-even honestly to themselves-about their own experiences. Among them, mores regarding appearing to be "PC." Look out Emily Post and Miss Manners! Here come the "PC"-ers! ;)
I grew up in the conservative '50's, early '60's and obviously many social changes came about starting by the mid to late '60's. Nonetheless, this PC phenomena together with an unwillingness or inability to even use a dictionary precludes ACs from using such words as "Evil" or "Abuse" never mind "Premeditated" in terms of their experiences.
I make no excuses for not being "PC" nor am I such an old fool I can't even look up a word and use it correctly. If you grew up with an NPD "parent" you were abused by an evil "parent" in ways that may well have been spontaneous, but you can be sure many of those abuses *were* premeditated. I don't use those words lightly or without a full comprehension of what they mean experientially or in terms of their written definition.
It's not just "Religious people" or "celebrities" who "go to great lengths to hide" their perfidy and pervasive nastiness. I've never met a NPD who didn't do exactly the same. Their frantic attempts to hide their behaviors speak volumes to their absolute knowledge that what they did-repeatedly-to others, particularly their own children was WRONG. Not to mention Abusive, often Premeditated and Evil.