Book Reviewlets: Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon confirmed my adolescent suspicions that society shakes down into strata of cool. And that the people I love most not only occupy the same social latitude. They’re also all best friends.

Mixing drinks, sharing babysitters, dating each other before hardening and wizening into the wrinkle years.

Kim Gordon dated Danny Elfman, y’all. In high school.

And she’s best friends now with Carrie Brownstein and Amy Poehler?!

Thus the rusty gears of the universe click into nearly Renaissance degrees of harmony.

So permit an indulgence: Though Thinker for Hire may enjoy preposterous science fiction television, she still doesn’t know what the Kardashians are.

There’s no US Weekly lurking.  Not even in the TfH bathroom.

Still, I grabbed this rock celebrity divorce memoir in hardback, full price, as soon as I could hustle to the bookstore.

In it, I learned that Thurston Moore is a cliche wrapped in a sneer topped in a shaggy haircut. That he left his marriage to Gordon for a witchy witchy skank. That he was a marvelous father. But that she married him because he emotionally echoed her abusive paranoid schizophrenic big brother. And that now, around 60 years old, she has a shot at true fulfillment.

You know who else is a witchy witchy skank life/family/marriage destroyer? Courtney Love.

You know who Kurt Cobain shoulda married instead?

Tobi Vail. Of Bikini Kill. Cuz they dated.

Rock celebrity throwdown mind fuck!

Information which STILL doesn’t compel me to care about Nirvana, which, I feel, hijacked my youth with mediocrity disguised as insight and pathos.

All respect to the living, feeling people involved.

I enjoyed this discussion of Gordon’s memoir as a portrait of performing womanhood. This review crystalized for me one explanation of the odd plainspokenness of Gordon’s prose (if she indeed composed it herself): as yet another camouflage. A protection, a screen, an anonymity.

She says straightforwardly that her brother’s constant abuse habituated her to hiding her feelings, her thoughts, herself. The self-protection of silent anonymity.

That performance was the only available means of self-expression.

But then the memoir enacts and reenacts the same compulsion to privacy, despite it’s promise as a pseudo-celebrity tell-all, by demonstrating a marked aversion to lyricism. There’s a strange blankness to her prose, whether describing her parents’ ignorance of her brother’s abusive treatment of her, her early formative friendships with future-celebrity artists, or her divorce.

However, this stylistic blankness manages to be propulsive and rich anyway, as most blank exteriors do.

And as Questlove writes, the memoir comes to life here and there, particularly in sparky passages like this one:

I always fantasized what it would be like to be right under the pinnacle of energy, beneath two guys who have crossed their guitars together, two thunderfoxes in the throes of self-love and combat, that powerful form of intimacy only achieved onstage in front of other people, known as male bonding.

A decidedly passive fantasy of phallic rock. Which she knows, frequently describes, and recreates in her prose: Consider the passivity of “I’d had to ask him to move out of our house.”

Gordon may be an icon many times over: of feminism, of post-punk authenticity, of postmodern media-savvy artistic practice, of fashion. She may have found strength enough to play with these self-projections and screen herself from their effects. But she’s still passive, still a victim, still marginalized by her role as the girl in Sonic Youth. The eye candy in the center of the stage.

The wronged ex-wife.

60 mothertruckin years old, and she’s still a girl in a band.

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2 thoughts on “Book Reviewlets: Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon

  1. Inder says:

    OUCH. I can hear the sound of a balloon deflating from here. Ah, poor Kim.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hah! Yeah. Poor Kim. But she got her revenge. She’s very much not kind about Thurston. She’s making out with dudes in cars. She won the PR battle.

      Or did you mean the balloon of our fandom?

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