photo & text by nacrowe
"carrying on in quiet desperation is the english way" - PINK FLOYD
its funny, there was a brief period in 2009 when i taught english in KUWAIT at my old high school. it was a terrible experience and i only lasted a few months before quitting in spectacularly dramatic fashion, something i'll likely get into on a later post. it was my first teaching gig out of graduate school and my worst job to date. what i learned there is that privileged children can be neglected much the same as poor kids. its a real counter-intuitive concept to take to heart, but that doesn't make it any less true. if anything having access and power is more corrosive to students still in their developmental stages and this was something that rang true while reading LILY ALLEN's memoir MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY (BLINK PUBLISHING 2018).
being an AMERICAN its sometimes hard to understand english stoicism and their "get on with it" culture, but luckily or unluckily i have an english grandmother that was raised by nannies away from parents of means and status not too dissimilar from ALLEN, whose mother was a film producer and father a notable comedian. my grandmother was a war-bride during WWII and brought along with her across the Atlantic quixotic notions of hierarchy and privilege the embedded english belief of not affronting others with your problems, for that would be unbecoming. this internalization is definitely something i have inherited and in ALLEN i can see a clever mind caught in her own head.
that's my long-winded way of saying ALLEN is truly english.
what drew me to her work back in the mid 2000s was her lyrics. there is a definite tradition of english songwriters who write thoughtful, intelligent lyrics about analyzing modern life, usually through character studies. i'd put ALLEN within that lineage that includes other prominent songwriters like RAY DAVIES and DAMON ALBARN in that respect. reducing her work to that of her then-contemporary pop peers is a bit of an insult, as she she seemed in control of her destiny with regards to her records.
and i think that was the point of this memoir, dedicated to her two young daughters in the wake of #METOO movement. she heroically present the public record with a series of vignettes that expound upon topics ranging from infidelity, abortions, career peaks and valleys, motherhood, drug abuse, co-dependency, paparazzi, touring, miscarriages, divorce, sibling rivalry, mental illness, stalkers, parental neglect, addiction, tabloid-induced paranoia and sexual abuse. the common thread seems to be how over time she came to manage her insecurities rooted in childhood neglect and isolation, which were only compounded by her participation in the entertainment industry. it seems obvious that this book is her attempt to provide context to her highs and lows, good and bad choices to her daughters and to fearlessly provide an example for young women to take back control of their bodies and self-esteem.
just a fearless book that lays it all out, which is very much in keeping with the spirit of her music. an affecting and worthwhile read that i recommend.