The image on actress Amber Tamblyn‘s new collection of poetry, Bang Ditto, (out September 1 from Manic D Press) was not Photoshopped. In the photo, taken by her friend, photographer Matt Wignall, who does photography for the Cold War Kids, Ms. Tamblyn’s face and body are split down the middle. In one half, her hair is down and she wears no makeup; in the other, her hair is in a curled updo and she is wearing heavy eyeliner. This, Ms. Tamblyn said, is representative of the book’s title and contents.
“You think of ‘bang,’ something that explodes, so one side is equally as powerful as the other, which is what the image is,” Ms. Tamblyn recently told the Transom by phone. “The Hollywood made-up red carpet look, this strong outer image, is as strong as who I am with no makeup on. But it took me some time to come to this conclusion about the title. At first I was like, ‘It just sounds cool!’”
This is not the actress’ first poetry book. In 2005, Simon & Schuster’s children’s division released a book of Ms. Tamblyn’s poems with the rather corny title, Free Stallion, which included poems she had written since age 11. Ms. Tamblyn won a local poetry contest with a poem called “Kill Me So Much”—an ode to San Francisco poet laureate and family friend Jack Hirschman—that was published in The San Francisco Chronicle. She considers Mr. Hirschman as well as New York poet Noel Kocot to be among her influences. Ms. Tamblyn grew up in Venice Beach, California, and moved to the East Village about a year ago. The collection of poetry and prose spans the last four years of the actress’s life (she’s 26) and includes her adventures in Hollywood.
“I think it’s more intimate,” she said of this book. “It’s also sort of funnier. I think I always took myself way too seriously. But I realized that having a sense of humor about this industry and my existence in it is really important. I think it makes me more of a person than a celebrity. I’ve realized over the years in performances too that it is much better to get people to laugh with you and at you.”
Ms. Tamblyn will be reading from the book on Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Bowery Poetry Club. “I do this really fun vaudevillian act with my mom [folk singer Bonnie Tamblyn] where she plays guitar, I read the poems and we sing together and make fun of each other,” she said. “I call her the womb and she calls me the mistake. And we drink whiskey.”
Among the tales in the book: the time Ms. Tamblyn lost a role she really wanted to an actress she was not too fond of, and subsequently got inebriated on Maker’s Mark and stumbled into the Scientology Center (“I think Scientology is funny sometimes”); the time she found out she had a half-sister, who did not know their father until she was 17 years old; “a tweet about how much I fucking hate Twitter”; some relationship stuff about the few years she spent dating someone who was intimidated by her working in Hollywood; and a poem titled “Dear Demographic,” which is, as it sounds, an address to young women of her generation.
Ms. Tamblyn is perhaps best known for her young adult roles in Joan of Arcadia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (On Friday, she attended co-star Blake Lively‘s birthday party on a boat.)
“This book is mature in terms of the language and content. I think anyone who wants to see who I am as a modern woman, outside of Joan of Arcadia or something, this is really who I am,” she said. But how to market the book was also a predicament for Ms. Tamblyn and her editor. “It was like, ‘How do you convey for people—both people who buy this book because they love Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and people who will hate it because they’ll think, ‘Oh here’s another celebrity trying to give herself some depth—who you are. That’s what the cover is about—embracing both, the Hollywood side of me and the private side.”
Ms. Tamblyn’s roles have also gotten increasingly grown-up. She recently starred in The Unusuals, an ABC police drama, but the show was canceled after the first season. Next year, she will appear in Main Street, a film about a small town in North Caroline, opposite Orlando Bloom and Ellen Burstyn. She also has a very grown-up boyfriend, 45-year-old comedian David Cross. On the back of his latest book, Drink for a Reason, Mr. Cross put a picture of Ms. Tamblyn’s father, actor Russ Tamblyn, above his own bio and included the line, “He is currently fucking Amber Tamblyn.”
“I think anyone who doesn’t realize that that’s funny is an idiot,” said Ms. Tamblyn. “Obviously he asked my Dad to take that photo and obviously he cleared it with me. I can’t believe no one would think he would do that first. People think he was just like, ‘Hmm, let me see how I can best jeopardize my relationship. I know! I will steal a photo of her dad and write this without asking her.’”
Her parents were obviously fine with it, she said. “My mom raised her eyebrow, but my dad thought it was hilarious.”