[There might be some minor spoilers below, though probably nothing surprising and nothing that's not alluded to on the back cover] When the early Throw[There might be some minor spoilers below, though probably nothing surprising and nothing that's not alluded to on the back cover] When the early Throwing Muses records came out, I didn't pay much attention to them, not disliking them but kinda dismissing them as "madness rock" and being vaguely turned off by Kristin Hersh's unusual vocalizations (I think 'bleating' is an accurate, non-judgmental description of one of her techniques). Over the years, I came to like them a bit more and now, after reading Rat Girl, I've become a big fan, somewhat in awe of Hersh. This memoir, written as a novel, describes her experiences during one hugely significant year, from Spring 1985 to Spring 1986, when she was 18/19. It's based on her diary, and written in the voice of a precocious teenager who is well aware of her 'outsiderness'. I initially thought this was going to keep me from enjoying (or finishing) the book, but after a few chapters the decision to use that voice felt right- it would've been odd to read this story from the relatively detached perspective of the wiser, forty-something author, devoid of the confusion and bewilderment that defined the year. And what a year she describes. The bulk of the book describes a long-term manic episode, which she doesn't realizing she's experiencing until she suffers a sudden breakdown. After she reluctantly begins taking medications for her condition (and after the band has moved from Newport, R.I. to Boston to pursue their dream of being full-time musicians 'living in a van'), two life-altering events occur almost simultaneously: her band gets a recording contract, and she discovers she is pregnant. The entire book is interesting, but I found the first two-thirds (about her then-undiagnosed time in 'Upland') to be particularly great. She describes her highly unusual songwriting process (of that year, anyway) in great detail, encompassing a fascinating and terrifying confluence of life-long synaesthesia (she has 'seen' music as vivid colors and shapes since early childhood), debilitating visual and aural hallucinations likely brought on by a horrible hit-and-run accident she was the victim of at 16, and some of the effects of her mania (she's developed her own mythology of what the songs are and how they affect her and the people who hear them. For instance, when she plays the songs or finishes writing one, she experiences them as 'tattoos' on her body, which can only be removed by swimming laps for hours at a time.). Her descriptions of the aural hallucinations are particularly striking- each song begins as undifferentiated noise, which her brain gradually (as in constantly, over the course of several days) and unconsciously organizes into notes, instruments, arrangements, syllables, and finally, words which she recognizes as fragments of stories from her life. She doesn't consider herself a songwriter so much as somebody who is a conduit for and wrangler of new songs. It's gripping stuff, making similar anecdotes in Oliver Sacks' "Musicophilia" pale in comparison (He needs to read this if he hasn't already. Hersh experiences several of the neurological phenomena he writes about, and her ability to describe them is probably keener than many of his subjects'). Her attitude- during her illness, and through the stressful period of making a record while in the third trimester of a pregnancy- is remarkable. She seems fearless (understandable during the manic period), but also displays a constant sense of wonder, and a near-complete lack of cynicism (unless she's talking about unnamed radio pop songs she hates, or rich Harvard kids who make lewd advances). Hersh seems to value kindness as the best quality a person can have and, luckily for her, she is surrounded by kind people who are unusually sympathetic and supportive: her bandmates, her senior-citizen-college-buddy-who-used-to-be-a-Hollywood-star Betty Hutton, Muses' producer Gil Norton, early booster and demo producer Gary Smith, and 4AD label owner Ivo Watts-Russell. This is a rock memoir completely lacking in sex (but with a pregnancy), drugs (of the recreational kind, anyway), and rock and roll (other than Throwing Muses themselves). Unless I missed it, only three other bands are ever mentioned in the entire book: The Who, Pink Floyd, and Deep Purple. The Who is only mentioned in an anecdote describing an out-of-touch major label 'VIP' trying to make small talk with the Muses over dinner; a phone ringing in London "sounds like Pink Floyd"; and Deep Purple rudely kicks the Muses out of the studio in the middle of the recording of their 4AD debut. Teenage Kristin Hersh's highly solipsistic internal world doesn't allow for music as entertainment; to her it's a vital, evil (in a good way) force trying to form itself into song 'bodies' which exist in the physical world. In this memoir at least, she's too preoccupied by, well, everything, to enjoy listening to other music. Hersh is surprisingly funny, too. Her descriptions of Ivo calling her from England every morning for a week to tell her that he owns a label but doesn't sign American bands, and an anecdote about running away during the recording of Throwing Muses' debut album, made me laugh out loud. Recommended for anybody curious about the creative process (especially as it relates to mental condition), though I don't think many people can relate directly to hers. Also, I found it very helpful to have on hand Throwing Muses' self-titled album and their Doghouse demo (both available on the In A Doghouse compilation album), as well as their amazing video for 'Fish' (filmed live in a loft while Hersh was visibly pregnant, but before Ivo Watt-Russell knew she was pregnant). The creation of each, from Hersh's unusual perspective, is described in detail in Rat Girl. These enhanced my enjoyment of the book, and the book enhanced my enjoyment of the music.