"I can be a pain, but most of all, I can be a pleasure."
Stated in the prologue, I flagged this comment in the margins of my book, and now I see it's a"I can be a pain, but most of all, I can be a pleasure."
Stated in the prologue, I flagged this comment in the margins of my book, and now I see it's actually a nice summation of her entire memoir. Because while it could have used some substantial and judicious editing and condensing, overall what's here is mostly a pleasure to read, a raucous romp through the second half of the twentieth century through the perspective of one of pop culture's most iconic—and iconoclastic—personalities.
Of all things, this this memoir constantly brought to mind Candide, Voltaire's epochal satire. Whipping across time zones and continents, creating and shedding personas, colliding with important historic figures and events, blundering into potentially dangerous situations and skipping away unscathed, Jones herself is something of a Candide figure—albeit without the slightest trace of that character's infamous naiveté, for as Jones constantly reiterates, she's game to try anything at least once (and if everything recorded here is true, she's true to her word!).
Early on Jones insists she "love[s] secrets" and promises that sharing her memories will not "spoil the mystery" of her life. And for all the information packed into these 380 pages, I do believe she managed to stay true to her word. Each paragraph is so packed with dazzling names—Warhol! Harring! Studio 54! Roommates and BFFs with Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall in Paris! Iman! The British Royal Family! Karl Lagerfeld! Helmut Newton! Etc, etc, etc—that the reader slides along in a kind of happy buzz without necessarily realizing that how all of this happens remains, in the end, an enigma. How exactly does one keep a schedule of regularly staying out until dance clubs until 7am? Manage experimental drug use (she says one acid trip lasted two weeks)? Seem to be everywhere in Europe and America simultaneously? Time bends and blends, she seems to pack into months more than most people are able to experience in a lifetime. I kept thinking "it must take SO MUCH effort and hard work to maintain the Grace Jones persona," but Jones rarely shows her cards. Reading this memoir, I got a sense of one layer of who Jones is, the facade that operates in the realm of contemporary pop culture myth, larger than life, something beyond mere celebrity or notoriety. But like the expert showsperson that she is, she cleverly camouflages the nuts and bolts that keep everything in place. But the private Grace Jones? That Jones has been secreted her away from public display.
The primary and vitally important exception to this, I will say, is when it comes to her art and image creation. For most of her career Jones has been characterized as the muse and ultimately the creation of others, and primarily of men. Here Jones demonstrates over and over again the personal agency behind everything she has accomplished: ceaselessly sniffing out the latest trends in music, fashion, and art, collaborating with the most talented and creative individuals in their respective fields, carefully shepherding each project to fruition and public release, this memoir obliterates any lingering perception that Jones is herself is anything less than one of the astounding artists of the second half of the twentieth century. We're just barely starting to come to grips with the artistic legacy and sheer fabulosity that she hath wrought.
I actually had a firsthand encounter with Gilkey: I had just recently been hired as a student worker at the newly reopened San Francisco State UniversI actually had a firsthand encounter with Gilkey: I had just recently been hired as a student worker at the newly reopened San Francisco State University library, and he brought a stack of books to the desk (two dozen, at least, and most of them antique). Fortunately for us there was a hold on his account for a laptop computer he had checked out and never returned; when we wouldn't check any of the books out to him he got really upset and stormed out of the library. Later when we tried to trace the issue it became clear it was Gilkey using a pseudonym.
I heard about this book at the time but had completely forgotten about it—I'll certainly have to check it out!...more