Wow – Canada!

Canada through the eyes of world literature

Madge’s Mad World

Life with My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone

Christopher Ciccone with Wendy Leigh, Life with My Sister Madonna (2008)

OK, fine, I read it. What can I say? I grew up in the Age of Madonna, and I was curious. I thought this book, being written by her brother, might offer some striking insight into the inner workings of the most fascinatingly self-reinventing pop star since Bob Dylan. (Or should I use the pretentious Greenblattism “self-fashioning” and thus attempt to lend a patina of intellectualism to this trashy pursuit? No, I won’t bother.)

As is always the case with books like this, I was disappointed; somehow, they’re never as shocking and trashy as you imagine. Ciccone (i.e. Christopher, the Lesser Ciccone) is more interested in whining about how Madonna ignores him, bitching about Guy Ritchie and his walk-in closet, and bragging about the time he spent doing drugs with supermodels than in offering insight into his sister. Or perhaps the problem lies deeper – perhaps this is a book written by an author not intelligent enough to comprehend his subject?

The full cover, when you see it, seems to suggest this:

Full Cover of LIfe with My Sister Madonna

The Lesser Ciccone is on the back, while Madonna is on the front but moving out of the frame, as though leaving him behind, slipping from the net of words in which he seeks to entrap her and eluding his understanding. And note her expression, the classic “Come on … Get lost” look of seduction that leads inevitably to rejection. Maybe you can judge a book by its cover.

Whatever; the point is, it mentions Canada:

We Ciccones may be afraid to confront our emotions, but little else fazes us. After all, we have pioneer blood in our veins and are proud of it. In 1690, my maternal ancestors, the Fortins, fled France and sailed to Quebec, then a complete wilderness, and settled there. Quintessential pioneers, they wrested a life for themselves and their families out of that wilderness. (p. 24)

The weak generalization about being “afraid to confront our emotions” is sadly characteristic of the sort of low-grade psychobabble that riddles the book.

What jumps out at me in this passage, though, is the word “then”; that is to say, Ciccone recognizes that Quebec is no longer a complete wilderness, even though it was in 1690. (Quebec City was founded in 1608, population of 550 in 1665, but it would hardly have been a bustling metropolis by 1690, so I suppose he’s right in the main, we won’t quibble.) This is a refreshing change from the opinion, sometimes encountered among Americans, that Canada is still a complete wilderness and buried in snow 365 days a year. So props for that.

Most thrilling of all, Madonna’s relatives lived in Canada before finding their way to the U.S. Madonna is practically Canadian! Think of all the Juno awards she could have won….

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