I’m on to Book 11 in my 20 Books of Summer and with only two more to read this month (and I’m probably reading one of them by now as I had to do a big review catch-up and schedule over last weekend) it feels like I’ll be able to end the project with a Virago and Persephone fanfare and without any of this month’s batch clamouring to be finished.

Also please notice that I’m up to books acquired in April 2019 – so the project has worked in its aim to clear off the oldest books from my shelf. I’m hopeful I’ll get back to being only a year behind myself by the end of this year!

Kim Gordon – “Girl in a Band”

(21 April 2019 – from Sian)

Kim Gordon was one of the main protagonists of the band Sonic Youth and I have to admit right at the start that Sonic Youth are one of those bands that I like the idea of more than I actually love (see also Polly Harvey, the Bad Seeds, really, if I have to admit it, Yo La Tengo and Neutral Milk Hotel). But I love a good music memoir and I’ve always admired what I’ve seen of Kim Gordon’s strong persona (although she undermines that media-created image in this book). Anyway, there’s enough detail about other things than intricate information about recording techniques and band timelines, including about the wider alternative music milieu to mean you don’t have to be a hard-core fan to enjoy this book.

Starting at the end with their final gig, this well-done music memoir is frank, honest and down-to-earth. I love Gordon’s career-long dedication to her visual arts work as well as her music – it has to come and go as family comes first but it’s “mine alone, where I could be anyone and do anything,” akin to the feeling she has when immersed in the flow of music, but just hers. This isn’t a book full of laughs, although there are amusing moments, but then “it’s hard to write about a love story with a broken heart” (p. 87) and her questioning of her whole relationship with Thurston Moore (and of the pattern of her relationships with men going right back to  her troubled brother) permeates the book.

It’s certainly not all misery and regret, though. Also permeating the book is her deep fondness and love for her friends, and her fierce love for, and pride in, her daughter Coco. I loved her thoughts about being female in an area of music dominated by men, and her admiration of the other women she finds there, and I also love her uncompromising attitude to the book (she chooses which songs and albums she wants to talk about based on whether she thinks she has something to say about them). She dislikes and avoids drama and has some strong words to say about Courtney Love (and some loving ones to say about Kurt Cobain); she’s proud of her side-projects and the time she self-recorded and produced a song and video for $19.99 total in an era of MTV slickness. Gordon discusses techniques like choosing random lyrics that she’s used throughout her career and I enjoyed her way of sticking to how she likes to work. She is generous to Moore with regard to their work on the band and his role as Coco’s father, so it’s certainly not a hugely bitter book, though it has its moments and frankly why shouldn’t it?

Although she’s honest about her co-dependent involvement with narcissistic men and talks about how she’s always gone out of her way to accommodate people’s feelings, the book ends on a personally powerful note about her new life which is cheering. An honest and readable account of a unique life in modern music.

This was Book 11 in my 20 Books Of Summer project.


Who knows what I’m currently reading? Ever got into such a reviewing backlog but not wanting to bombard your readers, so you’re writing Thursday’s review on Sunday?