photo & text by nacrowe
i found the recent memoir RECKLESS: MY LIFE AS A PRETENDER (ANCHOR BOOKS 2016) by CHRISSIE HYNDE of THE PRETENDERS-fame to be quite an affecting read. not so much because of her deftly-articulated descriptive accounts of growing up working-class in the midwest and watching the landscape, economy and culture shift around her or even her ZELIG-like ability to be in the center of the hurricane for culturally significant events (KENT STATE shootings, center of UK PUNK explosion).
what really caught my imagination with this book was her emotional distance from her own narrative. i don't want to make too much of this but it would seem that she has persevered through several traumatic events including the aforementioned shooting, sexual abuse and the untimely deaths of her friends, peers and band-mates. the perspective of this story seems to be one of a survivor unemotionally stating events or at most commenting on them from a remote perspective, which seems odd. as a male reader, i don't want to project any expectations of how a survivor of trauma should behave, as that is not my place. all i am saying is that it was something i noticed and found interesting.
i think what made this seeming omission that more glaring was the fact that this book pours an exorbitant amount of energy into describing her relationship with drugs. in fact, this book seems to be a cautionary tale about narcotics and how they effected her and those closest to her. to me this was probably the dullest aspect of the book, but i can see how it was vital in relaying her story as it was the basis for many interactions in various locales.
as a reader and a fan of her music my interest was more in the relationships she had with band members, past and present, but seemingly the story ends after the second PRETENDERS album and sparingly little about her work with PETA or any advocacy work thereafter. the same for her relationship with RAY DAVIES. i suppose exposing one's relationship with drugs is one thing, but delving into complicated adult relationships is another. that was a missed opportunity in mind opinion, but most likely a deliberate one.
my sense of HYNDE from reading her memoir is that she is a fiercely independent artist who takes risks aware but unencumbered by potential consequences. i can only imagine the chutzpah needed to leave AKRON for LONDON and making your way alone. it is more than remarkable. the fact that she collaborated with such a formidable list of musicians (MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, THE CLASH, THE DAMNED, etc.) during their formative years is a testament to her eye for talent and maybe just serendipity for being at the right place at the right time. the idea that her story may not resonate in a post-#METOO environment may also speak to her not wanting sympathy, or worse excuses, for her decisions or unfortunate situations she's encountered as a young woman. i read this memoir as someone who wants to own her past, not be passive participant in it.
in summation this was a great read. especially interesting to hear her descriptions of growing up a boomer and how the cultural and political landscape shifted post-WWII into the 1960s to create a generational divide that has never truly healed. one of the best descriptions of this tension that i have ever come across.