photo by nacrowe
i would like to get this out of the way right at the beginning, this is the greatest book about musicians ever.
and the recent shit film based on it did not do this book justice.
expertly edited (and in all likelihood ghostwritten) by NY TIMES writer NEIL STRAUSS, THE DIRT: CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS ROCK BAND (HARPER COLLINS, 2001) is megalomania personified, which coincidentally also describes the music of its subject, 80s HAIR METAL icons MÖTLEY CRÜE.
i have to hand it to STRAUSS, he really did a stellar job of milking out all the shallow narcissism of his subjects by allowing them each room to shape the narrative. this was done through structuring the book in a way were each chapter was written by one of the four members, each commenting on all that came before. essentially this book is four competing narrators that are by definition unreliable. this decision regarding structure allows the band to demonstrate their callow pettiness and baser drives far better than a straightforward hagiography by a single author could ever do.
it also makes for numerous hilarious moments, where seemingly the reader learns in real-time the numerous trespasses and poor decision-making of members against the other (i.e. sleeping with each other's girlfriends/wives, arguing over who started the band, etc) and their reaction to such. its genius and ultimately you don't believe any of them. its a book that makes you rethink what the definition of "truth" is and if determinism even exists decades before KELLYANNE CONWAY or SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS polluted our national consciousness.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
on a personal side, when i was in undergrad at RUTGERS i took this 20th century british literature class when i got an assignment to compare the JULIAN BARNES novel TALKING IT OVER (VINTAGE 1991) novel to any piece of literature. the professor's main gig was at nearby COLUMBIA and people took this class specifically to try to ingratiate themselves to her in hopes of getting a good word in i guess. TALKING IT OVER is about a love triangle and it is written in first person with three competing narrators, each undercutting the others rendering everyone unreliable. obviously my first thought went to THE DIRT mainly due to its structural similarities. i figure that all four MÖTLEY CRÜE members were liars so technically this "nonfiction" book was really fiction anyway.
long story short the professor was impressed and even read aloud a TOMMY LEE quote to class not fully aware of what she had done. that was easily the highlight of my academic career.
could not recommend this book and more forcefully, its worth it even if you hate their music and HAIR METAL in general. it transcends its subject. a classic.
photo by nacrowe
i just want to get it out of the way that i found SLEATER-KINNEY guitartist/co-vocalist CARRIE BROWNSTEIN's memoir HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL (RIVERHEAD BOOKS, 2016) jarring and difficult to follow. as a former english teacher im pretty accustomed to student writing that attempts to cover up a lack ideas with cumbersome structures and awkward word choices. this memoir is full of them and i can't figure out why?
it was meandering to the point of confusion. my feeling is that a reader of an book dedicated to an artist is hoping to appreciate any number of aspects, any of which are good fodder for a memoir. these could include insights on the artist's biography, creative process, context(s), breakthroughs, downfalls, influences, etc. BROWNSTEIN seemed determined to not placate to any of these tropes of the memoir format. she would seemingly take you on a long aside that dithered and wandered nowhere.
it was very frustrating as i was constantly questioning what her point was and why i was reading this. and then there was her writing style which was overly and ornamental to the point of being annoying. if she was attempting to show-off her cleverness, she failed miserably.
i was able to gleen some information about the formation of SLEATER-KINNEY and how BROWNSTEIN's complicated upbringing informed her relationships with peers and collaborators, but ultimately BROWNSTEIN puts herself center stage which is an odd choice in a memoir. my understanding is that what makes portrait photography and memoirs compelling is not the subject necessarily, but rather the context surrounding the subject. how have outside forces affected an artist's process? what are the internal/external dynamics that contributed to the making of a piece of art? in this memoir things just happen and seemingly she brought it about. came off a bit narcisstic, almost like reading THE DIRT (HARPERCOLLINS, 2001) by MÖTLEY CRÜE, where each of them fight over narritive control by asserting their greatness at the expense of all other band members. same thing with BROWNSTEIN.
i was really interested in knowing about their politics which never really came up. for me personally this is odd because i saw them play ROSELAND BALLROOM on February 15, 2003 right after participating in the anti-war protests that day in manhattan. they seemed very much enthused by that palpable energy and voiced their displeasure in GEORGE W BUSH's policies and proceeded to play a killer set. maybe my perception of them was off, given that so few pages addressed any political concerns. instead all of her concerns are rather insular tropes of the misunderstood traveling musician, which is beyond boring to read.
a very frustrating read. i love the band and i highly recommend listening to their records. i'd just say wait until CORIN TUCKER decides to get around to writing her story. this book is a hard pass.