Bella Thorne’s completely unedited book of poems, written in two weeks on a typewriter, The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray, begins with a disclaimer, a loose understanding of punctuation, and a sentence fragment: “so i wrote two books that i was making into one,” she writes, “guess what i did? i left them on a fucking delta plane.”
The explanation sets the tone for the rest of the text: Mogul is batty, not only because of its lack of proofreading. The book reads like a series of blog posts, a collection of erratic musings, chronicling Thorne’s thoughts on life-changing events. I’d graciously describe it as a “nonlinear memoir,” but the eclecticism of the format—scribbles, xeroxed polaroids, haikus, mini-essays, and free verse poetry—make it easy to envision Mogul as a Tumblr page of bad teenage poetry, easily scrolled through. That’s partially its charm.
That said, I enjoyed getting a sense of Thorne as written by herself and not the tabloids. She’s ironic, sometimes humorless, but never veers too far into the emo ramblings of someone who has read a lot of Hot Topic graphic t-shirts in their life. (However, that last part might be hard to grasp while trudging through basic grammatical errors, distracting doodles, and tilted font type.)
My fascination with Bella Thorne’s celebrity stems from her undisciplined public persona: She channels authenticity, not the #branded kind, by presenting an embarrassingly honest, caricature-like image. Anyone who has ever spent time with her Twitter account knows her team has an impossible task of trying to wrangle someone who desires to share every mundane detail of their life, regardless of how it might be perceived. The Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray is an exaggeration of her online behavior, and I found the new level of perceived access to be both entertaining and made me feel incredibly uneasy. In the past, Thorne has said that she believes writing is the truest expression of an individual’s identity, and if that is accurate, the oversharing in this book—her least contrived image—is really fucking bleak. I’m not generally a person who slows down to look at a car crash, but reading Thorne’s book, I certainly felt like one.
A collection of short poems—for example, the untitled “lifes a big dump/just flush it/dont forget to use toitel paper/because it could make your ass sore :),” reads like Gen Z alt-lit. It’s internet-bred language: aimless and awkwardly constructed, that nonetheless brings light to an otherwise heavy text. These short, joke-y poems often proceed dark and deeply unsettling rumination on her past traumas. In those moments, Thorne sacrifices metaphor for exposition. After an illustration of a toilet is a poem, “daddy,” about her late father who died in a motorcycle accident when she was a child. She writes, “i was told how cold your skin felt h [sic] described how you could feel the glass in your hair with the stitches from your autopsy... now i might not have been there at that moment in time but theres quite a few moments in life when i feel like im laying right next to you on that cold metal brisk slab.”
Her language is a jumble of nebulous apostrophes about death, inside jokes about her ex-boyfriend Mod Sun and her ex-girlfriend Tana Mongeau, and diaristic admissions. The writing isn’t sharp, but it is purposefully erratic, like she’s trying to offer intimacy by publishing the unedited drivel coming from her brain.
Thorne’s book ends similarly to how it begins: unintentional humor (a poem that simply reads, “Ever wondered why money smells like old people Dead presidents”), and an apology to her mother, part two of an early, less grateful screed. It’s a nice sentiment, almost immediately undercut with an epilogue of quotes from famous people (Diplo, Jessica Chastain). Ostensibly these are reviews, though most of them admit to having never read the book. In one line, Marilyn Manson claims to have become “illiterate after reading this.”
It’s clear that Thorne isn’t simply a melodramatic young actor interested in, like, the goth-rock stylings of The Cure (though she does include them in an oddly placed playlist). She’s a very famous person whose vulnerabilities have been broadcasted for years with or without her control. It’s eerie to read her give even more of herself up, voluntarily. If she’s attempting to course correct public opinion of herself, I don’t think she has; she’s simply fed the beast.