Jackie Collins The raunchy moralist.
Jacqueline Jill “Jackie” Collins, British-born Libran in Hamstead, London, the undaunted famous English romance novelist of Hollywood exoticism and sex, took her last breath at age 67, and lost the battle to breast cancer but only after all her 32 books on glamour, sex, and affairs in Hollywood became international bestsellers.
Known for writing, the raunchy novels Collins was expelled from her school at the age of 15 which she professed four decades later that she was a “Juvenile delinquent,” but that didn’t deter her from following her passion. She was, in fact, glad that she could move away from the stereotype modus operandi. Given her good looks, she featured in acting roles in the 50s and had a brief brush with stage singing as well. Though she did try to squeeze into the Hollywood film Industry grabbing side roles where her sibling Joan was an actress, she gave up when she felt the acting was not her true calling.
No less than a Greek goddess, Collins switched to writing and her first novel The World is Full of Married Men behooved to be a best seller. Neither a scholar nor student literature, like a normal inamorata Collins, took to fiction writing but soon got trapped in controversies for her unconventional and bold writing where Barbara Cartland called her book “nasty”, and “filthy”, “disgusting” only to be proved wrong. Though Cartland too was an English romantic novelist she was nowhere in comparison to Collins’ fervid novels.
Her bio iterates she was unbashed in her novels from Beverly Hills bedrooms to a raunchy prowl along the streets of Hollywood.
The fact is that Collins is the only woman who had the guts to articulate unbashedly the nature of lives lived by Hollywood royalty. Widely acclaimed and heavily criticised over the years for her novels, her novels portrayed a healthy dose of sex, drugs and fame and the damage the all three can create. Well, if you read her novels for sexual pleasure then you won’t be doing a justice. She indeed had to do a lot of research, hard work and faced rejections prior to launching her novels.
However, the all-time high to read her novels has been the way she wrote. Collins claimed, “Falling in love is like getting hit by a large truck and yet not being mortally wounded. Just sick to your stomach, high one minute, low the next. Starving hungry but unable to eat. Hot, cold, forever horny, full of hope and enthusiasm, with momentary depressions that wipe you out.”
Collins took to writing steamy stories for her mates to devour but little did she know that all of her works would turn out to be mega–hits. It would be wrong if one says that Collins exposed sexuality in her novels. To a certain extent, yes, is true, all her novels spoke of forbidden relationships, love, lust, passion, and scintillating love making – but she also unleashed the bitter truth of the life of the Hollywood stars.
Out here in India if an author takes to writing openly on sexuality he or she has either been drawn into controversies or the novel is named obscene or has fetched legal battles or the author has been expelled or has been jailed or has been criticised or has been named a porn novelist and the list of “or” is endless.
Yes, Collins too was criticisedbut, much to the dismay of those who criticised her, all her novels had a gargantuan effect.
I would like to share my personal experience. I was fourteen when I first read her book Chances. My mind was on fire – can novels be that bold, can sex be portrayed so openly – but it was equally intriguing. I got glued to her novels not because of the sexuality portrayed in her novels but the patch of fiction, the thriller, the sororicides, and the breath-taking romance contributed equally. Each of her novels had a tale of erotic suspense and glamorous intrigue that left me bewildered and I chose to forget my lessons, but chose to read her novels. The gunshots “bang”, “bang”, “bang” still echoes in my ears each time I open her novels to read. It was year 2000, I approached a roadside book seller for Collins’ novels to which he whispered ushering me behind the trees “Madam, this is the latest one, but do not read it openly, use a cover”. I was dumbstruck, it’s maligning an author, so this is the mindset we have in India, I guess huh!
Oh yes, there were several penmen who tried to copy her, but Collins proved to be the best. Jackie Collins has been called a “raunchy moralist” by the late director Louis Malle and “Hollywood’s own Marcel Proust” by Vanity Fair magazine.
Looking at her personal life – yes we do love to poke our noses in private lives; Collins was British as well as a US citizen. She did marry several times, got divorced as well, had affairs and she also quoted”I have a man for every occasion,” adding: “When I was a kid growing up, I used to read my father’s Playboy and I’d see these guys and they had fantastic apartments and cars. I have all of that now. Why would I want to hook myself up with one man when I’ve had two fantastic men in my life? One was my husband for over 20 years and one was my fiancé for six years.”
In The Sunday Times Rich List 2011, Collins was listed as the UK’s fifth richest author, with an estimated personal fortune of £60 million. In 2013, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Birthday Honors for services to fiction and charity. A mother to three daughters she fought breast cancer for six years only to lose the battle two weeks before her 78th birthday, it was 19 September 2015.
To list a few of her novels:
The World Is Full of Married Men (1968)
The Stud (1969)
Lovers and Gamblers (1977)
Hollywood Wives (1983)
The Santangelos (2015)
This essay of mine is not a tribute to her but a message to Indian society in particular: Sex is not a taboo, you can write bold, you need not be scared of your freedom of speech. Collins just wrote she didn’t care – so is she a bad woman? I guess not.
Why is our society so biased? Sex can be discussed openly, her novels proved it.
No, I am wrong yet again, just not us. It’s all over the globe where time and again books/novels have been considered obscene. Hey, society, do you know what will like to an author to launch a book?
Listing a few Literary Classics which fetched the axe of the so- called justice house “Court”
“Ulysses” (1922) by James Joyce – Masturbation huh! Enough to ban a book
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (1928) by D.H. Lawrence – Forbidden relationship, I see, we can have such relationships but can’t pen it down since we should be saints in front of society
“Madame Bovary” (1857) by Gustave Flaubert– Adulterous wife, good, ban a book
“The Well of Loneliness” (1928) by Radclyffe Hall – Lesbian protagonist
Despite these facts, Collins dared to venture the road less travelled and all her books were megahits.
In fact, she should be considered an inspiration who dared to dream big, despite the fact that she was expelled from school had never had a brush with literature. She had a failed acting career, wrote erotica so that her friends could devour, handled relationship issues but what she did was to write what she felt. In her interview when she was asked why there is so much sex in her novels she replied, “It’s extremely amusing because there is so much sex on TV now. My novels should not shock people, yet they do. Is it because I’m a woman writing about sex? Or is it because people feel sex is much more personal when it’s captured in a book? I don’t know. I only know that I prefer writing erotic sex to rude sex, and also, I write great married sex – contrary to popular belief, that does take place! Just ask Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton!”
The power of mind
It was in her last letter to her readers that she wrote, “Be kind and be grateful. Never underestimate the power of your mind. Embrace what you love, and LIVE life to the fullest, as tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
“Whatever your pain or struggle in life, don’t allow it to turn you into a victim… let your battle turn you into someone else’s hero!”
“Keep your comments coming on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter… you know I love hearing from you. I’m off to keep writing!”
“Stay healthy, stay lucky and take chances!”
“So, don’t be scared to write BOLD, write what your heart says, write without the fear people will judge you anyway they will, doesn’t matter, say f**k off, I am what I am, and no need to dictate me.
Go that extra mile, there is no rush.”
“I’m a survivor. I was thinking about what you said, and you’re absolutely right – I have to let go to continue. This devastating news is not going to slow me down. I’m my own person. I always have been. I’ve never believed in those people who blame everything on their parents – you know, I’m a f**k-up because my father was a f**k-up. Or I’m a drunk because my mother was an alcoholic. So, my father was a hit man? Maybe. So, he murdered my mother? Maybe. I don’t know any of these things for a fact. But I’m accepting them, and I’m beginning to realise they’re not part of who I am.”
By Rimli Bhattacharya