Jessica Simpson used to go by another name entirely, Kirsten B. That was until her peers renamed her based on what she looked like. However, the new Jessica did not look like the old Kirsten, and that’s where this story begins.
In 2017, many American women—the rich, white, and sheltered conspicuous among them—turned outward, enlisting in causes greater than their families or themselves. Jessica Simpson, the pop star turned fashion mogul, was at the time in the throes of an addiction to alcohol and sleeping pills (having quit stimulants a couple of years earlier, after a doctor warned her that they could kill her). Her new memoir, “Open Book,” is a mesmerizing record of this and other problems, including the fact that, as Simpson acknowledges, “There’s always a lot of people at my house.” On the Halloween afternoon that leads her to realize that she needs to address her issues, the crowd includes both of her parents; her house manager, Randy (“my dad’s best friend from when I was a kid”); workers setting up for a party; a “glam squad”; however many guests would require the twenty golf carts Simpson and her husband have rented to go trick-or-treating in their gated community; and Evelyn, her housekeeper of fifteen years, who finds her crying in her bedroom and holds her, stroking her forehead, until she zonks out. The next day, amid more hairdressers, Simpson’s friends, who also work for her, stage an intervention. Part of her cure turns out to be writing. She returns to the diaries that she’s kept since adolescence, organized—“a black one for the end of my first marriage, red for the hope of a love affair, blue for when I wanted to focus on my career and song lyrics”—according to a Dewey Decimal System of the heart. Journaling, the rare creative activity that brooks no collaboration, requires Simpson, as much as anything, to spend some time alone. “I think it’s important, whatever your situation, to turn inward,” she concludes, sober, now, for two years.
fell in love with John Mayer, who kept dumping her by e-mail and eventually coaxed her entire entourage into supporting a reconciliation (“Randy believed him”), only to bail after she broke up with Tony Romo, her boyfriend at the time, who unfortunately didn’t want her to take any movie roles that required onscreen kissing. (We won’t delve into her liaison with Johnny Knoxville, except to say that his nickname for her was “lady.”)