It’s so nice to only be in the second episode of a season of the Real Librarians of the Rhodes Scholarship, and there’s already a nice, big, juicy fight to tuck ourselves into. And what is great about this fight, which Bravo so desperately wants us to call Hashtag Bookgate, is that it is both simultaneously every stupid Real Housewives fight that has ever been waged but also one with very real, deep-seated consequences. Yes, Aviva is going around town accusing Carole of having her first book ghostwritten. There are not enough eye-rolls left in the entire world for me to drop on Aviva’s doorstep after this accusation. That is just absolutely ludicrous and potentially slanderous. (Oh my god, could you imagine if a Real Housewife actually sued another Real Housewife for slander? I would give the bottom half of one of my legs for that to actually happen.)
What is the most horrible about this – other than it seeming entirely malicious and possibly ruining Carole’s career – is it is so obviously a setup by Aviva. She started last episode pleading Carole to help with her book. This is, by its very nature, insulting. It’s like inviting your good friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten over for a friendly visit and then tasking him with whipping up some light bar snacks for you and your husband. This is Carole’s livelihood, and asking for some advice or guidance is one thing, but asking for her to do a whole bunch of work for free is just callous.
Then Aviva tells Carole just how quickly she wrote her memoir and how emotional and “fun” it was. Aviva’s book, while possibly having the incident in it where she lost half her leg in a dung conveyor belt in a barn, seems like it might be “fun.” It might be about how to stay thin and take your kids to karate practice while eating small meals. It might be about all the rich men that she dated in New York City and the pranks that she would pull in her sorority house at Vassar (she seems like she went to Vassar, doesn’t she?). Who knows what it is about, but it is “fun.” Carole’s first book – which, need I remind everyone, was approved by Oprah Winfrey, the most important literary critic of our time – is about her husband dying of cancer the same week that her two best friends died in a plane crash that was exhaustively covered by the media. This is not “fun.” This is about as far from fun as having a simultaneous root canal and bikini wax.
That Aviva equates these two projects is insulting to Carole. That Aviva then says that writing her book was like “writing a long email” is the most laughable, disingenuous, and infuriating thing that I have ever witnessed a person say on reality television, and I have watched every single season of both America’s Next Top Model and Jersey Shore. Writing is not easy. Good writing is not “fun.” Sure, composing an email and a memoir both entail the act of typing, but telling my mother that the weather in New York is nice and that I am not caught up on Scandal but I’m halfway through season two and it’s pretty good so far is not at all like plumbing the depths of my soul and having some deep insight into both myself and the human condition as it is reflected through my experience. Carole did the latter. It made Oprah cry. Aviva’s “book” will not make anyone cry except out of frustration. It might make Jill Zarin cry in a strange secondhand way out of jealousy, but it won’t provoke any emotion in a reader. Do you know how I know? Because she said it was “fun.”
Girl, you really got me going on a tear on this one. But I understand Carole’s frustration. As a professional writer, there are tons of people I know who think that they can just do it too. They don’t understand that there is a craft and skill to writing, one that I have taken years to hone. You think Real Housewives jokes write themselves? They do not. I spend hours (okay, minutes) composing these bons mots, and that you think it's easy shows just how good I am at my job (and also, Real Housewife jokes are easy). Just because you can string some words together into a sentence does not make you a writer. I mean, I know how to turn a computer on and connect it to the internet, that doesn’t mean I’m a hacker. I have a driver's license, that does not make me a chauffeur. I have crippling narcissism and self-esteem issues, that does not make me Anne Hathaway.
I think this is a thing Carole also hears all the time and is a bit put off that some amateur is trying to make light of what she does. When Carole said, “Oh, are you having this ghost-written?” she said it sort of like Aviva (or someone else) had mentioned this was the case and she was trying to confirm it, and when Aviva said she was not, she did not bring it up again. She took Aviva’s word for it that she was not, startled as she may have appeared to be. Aviva does not give Carole the same courtesy when Carole says that she wrote her own book.
Heather, on the other hand, was just being shady to Aviva. By the time those two went for 1.5 pedicures, Heather had a bone to pick. Her questioning about whether or not Aviva’s book had an audience and if it was about her leg because it had to be because she was not famous or interesting enough to warrant a book otherwise (which, well, is harsh but true) was pointed and vicious. She says, “Not everyone can be a talented writer,” which is true, but she’s trying to get her digs in on Aviva while trying to seem like she’s interested or concerned. That is shade in its purest form.
My biggest problem is that the whole thing, from the first lunch onward, seemed like Aviva had some sort of agenda. She wanted to get Carole talking about writing so that she could ask about a ghostwriter so that when Carole denied, she could then go and tell everyone that Carole didn’t write her own books. She tells Ramona and, even worse, she volunteers the information to Heather. At least to Ramona, Aviva was talking about how she felt slighted and the information came out because of that. While talking to Heather, Aviva has to throw in the fact that Carole used a ghostwriter as a way to try to make Carole look bad and herself look better. It was mean-spirited and awful.
The only person who had an appropriate response to this was Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Hackensack Morgans. She asks, “Does Carole say that she didn’t have a co-writer?” Someone says, “No.” STM replies, “Then Carole didn’t have a co-writer. Case closed.” Seriously. That’s it. That is how a normal person who is nominally friends with Carole would react to the accusation. Aviva, on the other hand, just tells people that Carole is lying and tries to turn this story into truth by repeating it enough times. Well, she might make a good writer after all.
Like I said earlier, this is a classic Housewives fight. Carole says she didn’t have a ghostwriter. Aviva says she did. There is no way to prove either of them correct, so you just have to pick who you trust and go with them. Usually the question is a lot more subjective than this one (like, “Did Lisa tell Brandi to bring tabloids on vacation or not?”), but everyone just needs to pick a side and stick with it.
However, it is different in that this is Carole’s livelihood and, as a writer, she trades on her reputation. If the story catches on that she didn’t write her books, people will think that she can’t do her job and will not hire her for future gigs. She will be professionally ruined. So this is the revenge Aviva is setting up, which seems like a whole heap of vengeance for feeling slighted at a lunch at a tacky Upper East Side Italian restaurant. The punishment does not seem to fit the crime. And bickering about whether or not somebody said something about someone else behind her back is one thing, but saying that a writer does not produce her own work is, well, it is actually borderline criminal.
Aviva keeps repeating this asinine line that “it takes a village to write a book.” Sure, there are writers and editors and ghostwriters in some instances, but it does not “take a village.” Emily Dickenson was an absolute recluse and still managed to leave behind one of the most pristine collections of literature in the English language. Leo Tolstoy actually wrote, by hand, every single stinking word of War and Peace. Even James Frey, another Oprah-approved memoirist, actually wrote all the words in his book even though some of them were entirely made up. Writing is a lonely, solitary pursuit (which is why most writers are awful, horrible people who resort to making fun of mean old ladies on reality-television programs to feel better about themselves) and to say that it “takes a village” yet again entirely misses the point of what writing is about. Can’t she see why Carole is pissed?
Everything about Aviva is just an amalgamation of people around her. She not only stole Carole’s occupation, but also her glasses (which just look ridiculous on her). This is a transgression against the friend code that should be punishable by death or being forced to eat 45 Olive Garden breadsticks in a row. She then appropriates Kelly Bensimon’s “I’m up here and you’re down there” line from season two of the Real Gummi Bears of Scary Island. There is nothing original or new or interesting about Aviva except the way that she takes reality and bends it like Beckham to her own fiendish purposes. That is it.
Was it harsh when Carole said, “You’re nothing. You’ve never had a job outside the home”? Yeah, maybe. But it’s belittling what Aviva has chosen to do with her life the same way that Aviva is denigrating Carole’s chosen field. This is the most justified and real fight in Real Housewives history, and I can’t wait to see the end of Hashtag Bookgate next week.
Deep breaths, Moylan. Deeeeeep breaths. Phew.
Okay, there were a few other things that happened in this episode, so let’s address them. We need to have a brief talk about our drunk aunt Sonja Tremont Morgan. Oh, I love her. I realized last night that Sonja is a floozy. I mean that as a term of endearment, like when Paris Hilton says “Hey, slut,” when she sees her accountant at Trader Joe’s. Sonja just wants to get a little bit wasted, sleep around a little bit, and have a good time. Did you see her staring at Kristen’s body when they were having a spray-tan session at her house? Sonja was leaning against the shower door, her neck cocked just so, swirling a Disaronno-and-coffee in a glass and eyeing Kristen like she was the last Little Debbie’s left in Rosie O’Donnell’s pantry. The lust in Sonja Tremont Morgan’s heart knows no bounds. (Also, can we stop with the weird ritual of spray-tanning together at each other’s houses and making us look at those weird, nippleless, Barbie boobs when they do it? Thanks.)
Then there was her date with Harry Dubin, Aviva’s ex. These two both have 20-year-old slampieces, like to get a little saucy, and are looking for someone to spend their twilight years with. They should just get married and continue on with life as normal. They’d be like Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards, but a whole lot more familiar with a bottomless brunch. And by that I mean eating Eggs Benedict while drinking unlimited mimosas – without pants on. I don’t think they’re going to take over the world like the Underwoods, they’re just so well matched that they would be a force together. Then Sonja Tremont Morgan might actually finish her toaster-oven cookbook or her swimsuit line or a her department-store campaign or her $25 million capitalization of her Interns ‘R’ Us start-up or something.
I loved how Sonja invited Harry in for “one drink in the garden, but no couch action.” Oh, Sonja. I’ve been there on that doorstep, inviting a man in and telling him that there will be no pankies for his hankies, knowing that as soon as the front door is closed behind us our clothes would end up in a heap. Sonja, just keep being you, you giant floozy.
I noticed something else strange and it is Amanda Sanders, image consultant. Why has she been in both episodes this season, first at Heather’s birthday party, and then at Aviva’s housewarming? Is this the producers getting a subtle dig in at the ladies, that they need to worry about their image? Or is this like that thing in old episodes of She-Ra, Princess of Power where there was some little rainbow creature hiding in each episode and at the end he would come out and show you where he was hiding and teach you a lesson about sharing or not being a runaway or some shit? I don’t know, but I have my eye on you, Amanda Sanders, image consultant.
Finally, we need to talk about a little scene that went down at Kristen’s house. Ostensibly, the reason she is there is not because she sold a kidney to Andy Cohen (that last trip to Croatia with Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa really took it out of him), but because her husband is friends with Heather. Heather goes over to Kristen’s house with her two kids and, well, it was a scene. It was not an Aviva saying the words “fuck buddy” in front of her 11-year-old inappropriate awful reality TV scene; it was, well, it was almost something actual.
Kristen’s apartment is nice for New York, but kind of small, with a CB2 animal-print rug and all sorts of children’s toys and assorted detritus strewn about the edges. When Heather arrives, Kristen starts talking about her daughter who can’t walk and needs to wear braces. Then Heather tells us about the 25-year-old who died and donated his organs so that her son could live. Wow, that got real. Maybe a little too real. I like my reality television with a bit of backbiting and some ridiculous GIF-able catchphrases. If I want a half-shabby apartment filled with woes and spiritual crises, I’ll go back to watching my own existence, thank you very much.
But it was nice to see it, that moment. That moment where two women could connect in the real, hugging each other on the floor while the cameras rolled in the background, not wondering when they need to break their embrace or just how they were going to appear to the public. Just two mothers, happy that things were going to be okay, staining each other’s blouses with a few tears of hope.