Eric's Reviews > Rat Girl

Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh
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's review
Sep 30, 2011

really liked it
Read from September 09 to 29, 2011

Let me preface this review by reiterating the fact that I have a hard time with female vocalists. For me, many of them blend together into interchangeable background noise. In fact, I can only think of a few female singers that I even like - Joan Baez, Carole King, Mahalia Jackson, Emmylou Harris, and too many classic soul singers (Motown, Stax, etc.) to count. I know it's lame that I can't name check the hottest new indie female powerhouse (Adele? Is that one?) The point is, and with the disclosure that I'm sure I'm forgetting some deserving soul(s), there are not that many.
Someone that does belong on that list is Kristin Hersh. Let's face it, her voice sounds like Beelzebub reincarnate snarling and ready to destroy all in her path. At least that's what I hear in her work with Throwing Muses and as a solo artist. With that out of the way, she is not a very good writer. In Rat Girl we are made privy to one year of her life - when she was 19 and the year was 1985. Let's just say some good (Throwing Muses broke), bad (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder), and life-changing (she became pregnant) shit happened that year. We learn that Kristin was a bohemian that didn't want to be considered bohemian, she loathed "art," yet she describes her voice and the music speaking to her over and over again. Also, there are endless too-cool-for-school exchanges with her and the band. What surprised me was that she was an avid swimmer, shockingly sensitive, and never reveals the father of her child. This is her right, obviously, but I think that a memoir is a category of book that leans to the side of full disclosure on the part of the author. I found her description of living with bipolar disorder and the effect it had on her life very moving and brave. Alternately, I was left wondering who the father was because she depicts herself as almost asexual, or at least indifferent about her attraction to men or women. As the reader, it felt like being told to make yourself at home and then being told that the cookies on the table are off limits. Sorry, maybe it's the People magazine syndrome in me, I just wanted to know who the dad was.
Ultimately, the true power of Rat Girl lies in the behind the scenes peek into the rise of the Throwing Muses from the eyes of its de facto leader. Like most great things, it happened by accident. They didn't give a shit, but the right people did - and we are better for their superior vision. It doesn't matter that Hersh will never win the Pulizter, she was/is an original mind. She does was she wants - still - on her own terms, including writing a memoir that she admits is "riddled with enormous holes and true," and even with my elitist literary objections it was still a fairly interesting read.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Andy (new)

Andy Adele? Seriously? You know better than that... sounds like someone is making a "too cool for school" exchange with someone out there in the blogosphere.

Eric The Mrs. owns Adele. That's my only point of reference. Lady Gaga? Does she count as a vocalist? I don't know her songs though. What is "blogosphere"? This does not compute. I should have added Neko Case to the "like" list now that I think about it. Does that make you happy? Your attack hurts my soul!

message 3: by Andy (new)

Andy I was not purposely trying to hurt your soul, but I've told you about enough chick artist out there that you could have done better than Adele. Howabout Lana Del Ray? The chick from Cults? The Denver band Tennis? I guess I felt that you disregarded my lesson in chick music. You could have even gone the route of Bjork (well, maybe not, she's her own entity really). The blogosphere? That is what they call the places where you blog in cyber space. You should read more cyberpunk.

message 4: by Eric (last edited Oct 02, 2011 07:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric I don't know who Lana Del Ray is. Cults, yes. Tennis, yes. I guess my not-so-successful implication was that in my simple mind there are not many even semi-iconic female singers that swim around in the jukebox in my head. Sexist as it may sound, there are an infinite number of male band/artists that do and who have made a lasting impression on this writer since he was a young Rockfordian. When I find a female singer that I like, I tend to choke the life out of her back catalog. This is the extent of my devotion. I would never question your indie "chick artist" credentials, Special Ops. In dark times you lead the blind back into the light. Also, good call on Bjork. She is not only an icon, but a witchy woman icon. I was being facetious about not knowing what blogosphere is. The question is, do you know Cyber Chase?!

message 5: by Andy (new)

Andy Excellent retort. I did not catch your facetiousness. My apologies. However much my "chick artist" knowledge runs, it pales in comparison to your overall wisdom of all things music. I must always defer to your wisdom. I do like a good chick singer though. They do something to the soul.

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