Kim Gordon 'girl in a band'
I wrote in my last 'bloggers book club' post about how I was loving my Kindle, and taking nothing away from that, I am currently reading it daily on my lunch break at work and I find it so much easier to tote about than a weighty tome. Mind you, when I saw this book on the kitchen table the other day, my interest was piqued; Kim Gordon, the thinking woman's role model and liver of total rock star life, has written a memoir so of course I wanted to read it. Unfortch, Adrian had bought it for himself to have a squizz at first, but a quick tweet to KG (@kimletgordon) suggesting I pinch it off him to read first got the thumbs up (she retweeted me!) and so Adrian had to back down and let me read it!
Now, I have to preface this review by saying that I knew very little of Kim before I'd read this book about her. Growing up, I suppose I came of age in between decades of that stronger wave of feminism, because the only role models I had in terms of music were, I guess, the Spice Girls. Which were prepackaged to appeal to the mass market, by men. They weren't even the real coiners of the phrase 'Girl Power' as I soon found out in Kim's book. As the sole woman in the band Sonic Youth, I didn't really understand or relate to the music particularly well; I think this has become more obvious as I've grown up but the music that I feel defined my youth was more of the pop/punk variety (Spice Girls excluded). My formative years were a haze of Greenday, Nirvana, The Offspring, even Millencolin in the mix there, sitting uncomfortably next to my other favourites (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash) later on in the 6-CD changer of my Mondeo Estate. Interestingly, all these musicians/bands were male; after the early teen Spice hype had died away I really can't remember getting that excited about female bands or vocalists; Kenickie were pretty cool and I liked Alisha's Attic, but even they seemed more filler than anything else. All that remained was a bit weak; nothing I felt I could relate to or felt impassioned by.
Anyway, my potted musical history aside, I did feel that this book would give me more insight into women in music and also, women I may have potentially missed. Kim writes thoughtfully and lucidly, managing to manoeuvre her way around the quite clearly cataclysmic end of her marriage with complete dignity whilst omitting very few of the details, this is a personal and sometimes very difficult account of something that many women deal with, fewer, as she, in the very public eye. The book dips in and out of her interesting and eventful life, charting successes and failures with wit and empathy. She is likeable without trying to be. She has never tried to market herself as a sexy woman, part of her allure, to me, in Sonic Youth was that she maintained herself as first a musician, irrelevantly of her gender, which is something that men would do without thinking about it, but there is no overtness with Kim. These subtle differences set her apart from many of her peers and actually elevate her into that realm of subversive sexuality; and even more than this, she is attainable and she is a woman I would want to emulate. I respect her. I see her for who she is, as an artist honing a craft in a very male dominated genre, and I thank her for the resonance and the realness she brings to it.
Peppered with interesting anecdotes and wonderfully insightful (and often personal) photographs, this book is a delight and I read it over about three days (so Adrian didn't have to wait long to get it back!) but I could have easily read it in a sitting had I had sufficient time to do so. (As it was I stayed up into the small hours one night!) In today's world which too frequently sees the idea of 'Feminism' lost amongst mixed up ideals, it's a refreshing and grounding volume that every woman (and man!) should read. Kim doesn't promote herself as anyones inspiration or feminist touchstone, but I've certainly found her to be mine.