Sarah Smith's Reviews > Drugs are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir

Drugs are Nice by Lisa Crystal Carver
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Jul 01, 2009

really liked it
Read in June, 2009

I'm going to suppress my desire to denigrate this as a fluffy memoirish ladytimes summer read, because while that's a tempting angle to take, it's not really fair. Lisa Crystal Carver is one of the proto-zinesters who made amazing and kind of solipsistic small-run self-obsessed photocopied magazines, back even before riot grrrl was really a thing or Sassy started covering the phenomenon. I was mostly into reading this because I treasure my compilation of her zine Rollerderby and I was curious to see how she would make the leap from the informalities of old school cut and paste to the officialdom of bookness. In her zines, Lisa Crystal Carver has this magic ability to write off-handedly about gross stuff (swallowing phlegm balls, her vagaries as Lisa Suckdog in the eponymous band/performance thing known as Suckdog, which often involved crude props and simulated scatplay on stage to accompany operatic music about lost kittens and stuff) and some feminist stuff (don't get scared away, though, this was before the towering pain in the ass of third wave Sex 'n the City feminism flamed up and out). It's surprising, somehow, that even with such saucy material to play off of, her best writing conquers the mundane (interviews with trashy cracker neighbors, reviews of her cats, hating on Linda Evangalista's new-at-the-time blond haircut). Gladly, gladly, a lot of the things I loved about Rollerderby are preserved in "Drugs Are Nice," but shown from backstage, with a more reflective look at the reasons feral teenage Lisa was so good, so bad, so slutty, so honest. And okay, the transition between zine and grownup nonfiction narrative is a little awkward at times. One gets the sense that she hadn't completely resolved her authorial position, whether to write from the present looking back at the past or to deliver it all immediacy-style with second person present tense, which annoyed me in the first few chapters but smoothed out eventually.

Of course, no memoir gets published without one of those classic hard knocks arcs, and the arc here follows Lisa's abusive relationship with a manipulative and dangerous man much like her father, and her ability to get away once she could clearly see the effect her awful and wonderful father had on her relationships. That right there, that's the reason I'm tempted to class this as a beach read version of the other side of growing up Gen X, but wait, fuck that. This is Lisa Suckdog we're talking about here, who did an entire album of weirdo songs threatening GG Allin. GG ALLIN, okay?
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