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Chelsea Girls

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,845 ratings  ·  216 reviews
A groundbreaking and candid coming-of-age novel.
Paperback, 276 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Black Sparrow Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,845 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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I really love lesbians. I'm not sure why this is. It's not that I love them all -- there are plenty of lousy lesbians out there -- but for some reason a person being a lesbian improves my chances of liking her by maybe a factor of five. I feel like lesbians often have a good perspective on things. Many are good at being self-aware without being self-absorbed. There might be something about being a lesbian that improves people's personalities, or maybe girls with good heads on their shoulders win ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A fast-paced collection of autobiographical stories, Chelsea Girls tracks the author’s coming of age during the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies. Blending fiction and memoir, Eileen Myles makes cool art out of a messy life: their stories read as strings of insouciant anecdotes about everything from their dysfunctional adolescence at the height of the counterculture to the rocky start of their career as a lesbian poet working in a male-dominated field. Blasé and jaded, these tales swi ...more
Julie Christine
When I was seventeen, I had a mad crush on a musician who lived in my town. He was in his twenties and on the cusp of fame in the about-to-explode Pacific Northwest grunge scene of the late 1980s. Years later, I would flip through a scrapbook and find a poster from a concert held at a community center in town during the autumn I crushed on that man/boy. Well, would you just look at that: Fall 1986, Nirvana headlining the Hal Holmes Community Center. I'd forgotten about the concert, held in the s ...more
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"I lay on the bed, fascinated by the acrid taste of piss, yet horrified at the inadequacies
of my tape collection."
Mary K
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read the greater part of this book on a plane ride home, next to a man who looked sponsored by real-tree. His phone's background was a picture of his toddler son on top of his tractor. After he started white-knuckling the communal armrests, it became pretty obvious that this earth-oriented man was terrified of flying. Poor guy. During the flight's turbulence, he became desperate for a conversation partner. We chatted--he showed me more pictures of cars with babies on top of them--and eventuall ...more
Ben Winch
Good lord but it’s hard to write reviews these days! I seem to have said it all before, and I wonder how I had the gall to say it in the first place. But then I read something like Chelsea Girls and I feel as if I have to say something, if only to complete that indirect self-portrait I sketched with all those other reviews. Fact: I love this book. I think it’s genius, at least in parts. I’ve even developed a kind of a crush on its author (no doubt aided by the Mapplethorpe cover photo). I call h ...more
A quintessential strung-out '90s novel set in both NYC and Boston. The flat affect and stream-of-consciousness style are no doubt familiar to readers of Brett Easton Ellis and others, perhaps a bit too much so. Still, Myles is a quick wit and every ten or so pages she'll turn a phrase that just floors you.
Nov 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer, memoir
i think if i would re-read this collection of memoir-esque vignettes by Eileen Myles, i would probably read one a week, out of order until i was finished. Then each one would stand on its own and be able to to savored or scorned by its own merits. Unfortunately, i read it pretty much cover to cover (well, almost, couldn't quite finish it) and honestly became quite bored with it. At times brutal, hilarious, fierce, blase, superficial, a well of unending sadness, these glimpses of life, of lives, ...more
Jessica Potter
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Eileen makes me feel loved and in love, brings me closer to myself!
Merritt K.
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Myles' abrupt sentences and meandering narrative structures might not be for everyone, but I really feel like this book is an essential part of lesbian history. Any gay woman who picks it up will probably see at least part of her life reflected in it in clearer terms than she could articulate herself.
Sian Lile-Pastore
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetry, girls, alcoholism, books and all round amazing writing. Eileen Myles is the best. Sections in here about going to Woodstock, signing a book for Allen Ginsburg and staying at the Chelsea Hotel.
It was okay, but not especially great. I expected more from it and well that's usually an ez-pass lane to disappointment.
Morgan M. Page
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I love butch ne'er-do-wells," I told a friend in explanation of my crush on Eileen Myles. And if there was a ever a book about that particular type, their alcohol-soaked debut Chelsea Girls is it. Is it a novel? A series of connected short stories? A memoir in pieces? An extended prose-poem? Much like the indistinct area between butch and trans man that Myles now inhabits, the answer isn't either/or but rather yes, and. This book is sleazily sexy and funny and sad, even when sometimes its main ...more
Eileen Myles has a beautiful way of describing all the confusion and feelings that happen when you are young and trying to figure out life and who you are; and you just go with your gut feelings and reactions even though you know deep down inside you probably shouldn't; but you do it anyway. Sometimes it turns out amazing and all you hoped it would be and a lot of times it turns to shit but it is always worth it because you are having an adventure and experiences that add to who you are as a per ...more
Guttersnipe Das
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If on the off chance civilization survives the next few years, I hope ‘Chelsea Girls’ graduates from “cult classic” to “canon”. Imagine -- we could have a canon that was sexy and ferocious and fun to read! The best pieces here are brilliant about growing up a poet, a lesbian, an alcoholic, and a genius. Even the less successful pieces are very useful tutorials on new ways of putting paragraphs together, you know, for those of us who are sick to death of the traditional forms of the story or the ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, queer
I loved this book even though my dear friend Cidney didn’t love it and told me so while I was on page 20ish. First: content warnings: alcoholism. a lot of it. And Myles mentions sexual assault and describes one in not really graphic detail but enough that I was upset. And not in really sensitive language either, which is surprising, but not entirely surprising given that the book is from the 90s, ugh.

The way the story/stories are told in this book is baffling, unlike anything I’ve ever read. Th
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Long before Michelle Tea, there was Eileen Myles, a poet and patron saint of working class, lesbian punk in the 1970s and later. This reissue of Myles' 1994 book is labeled a novel and reads like short stories, memoir, autofiction, you name it. Whatever it is, I came away loving Myles and thankful she survived to share her stories.
Andy Bird
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
A great memoir through stories, it veers between sex and drugs in the 70s and 80s and her childhood with an alcoholic father. Very well done.
Erik Carter
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was written like Eileen was on speed (which she talks a lot about!) Made me realize my fucked up New York years weren't special.
Michelle Curie
Only a few pages in, I was beginning to regret my choice. Should I just put this book back down and pretend I've never even aimed for reading it? What is this?

It doesn't get more sex-drugs and rock'n roll than this. Written in the 90s, American poet Eileen Myles retells fictionalised stories of how she's experienced the three preceding decades. With an Catholic background and alcoholic father, she's out to live through the wildest of times in 70s New York.

"See, I come from an alcoholic house
So many hilarious, sad, and generally great lines here: "If there is something I will always carry in my heart it is this earnest unwillingness to be part of the bunch, the whole horrible let's do it generation to which I belonged."
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beloved
One of those wonderful occasions when the right book falls into my hands at the very right time. I devoured every word, sentence, comma, everything. Lust for life and all.

"I had willed that I really was not still in love with Chris, I had decided to be a dispassionate viewer, it would be a pleasure not to care. What if I didn’t know what I felt anymore? I probably had never known what I felt. I only liked getting drunk and being in love. If I wasn’t either one of those things, I simply needed m
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
I first fell in love with Myles with the original release of “Inferno.” Maybe that is a lie. In 2002, a friend pushed a book at me and said “read this, the sentences are so intense and the descriptions will make you sick.” My friend’s review was for “Cool for You.” And I was clearly not yet cool enough. With “Inferno” I discovered this playful queer mix of fact and fiction. I devoured it. Since then, I have tried to keep aware of Myles. And was lucky enough to see them read/speak at ALA two year ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
i really couldn't get through the first few pages. her style is okay, kind of the rambly prose that i appreciate once in a while. i guess there was just no personality there to charm me into keeping on. i even flipped to the middle of the book before i gave up to see if it was different but it was still just drugs. women. blah blah.
Dec 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Having read this, I now understand why Eileen Myles looks like a graduate of the Keith Richards School of Survival.
This wasn't what I was expecting, because I think I was expecting something more along the lines of Patti Smith's Just Kids. This is not that. Chelsea Girls, instead, is completely its own thing, which is pretty amazing.

I tend to be fascinated by what's now called the "autobiographical novel," and I feel like Chelsea Girls did it before anyone else (or at least decades before it was trendy). I kept thinking "Oh, wow, Eileen Myles had such an interesting life," but would then catch myself and re
Kallie Quist
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long overdue read. Chelsea Girls was a pleasurable read from start to finish, although it took me a couple of chapters to get used to Myles’s voice, which is blunt and slangy. Through a series a interconnected short stories/chapters that jump back and forth through time, Myles lets the reader in on they’re Catholic family and childhood, plagued by an alcoholic father, and how alcoholism follows Myles into they’re own adulthood which is riddled with substance abuse and (mostly) toxic relationsh ...more
Hannah J
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you need to find a book in your brother’s room, look at the back cover, go “ew,” and read it anyway.
The author is someone I NEVER would have talked to at a party. She seems like she’s a little mean, and she’s done a bunch of drugs, which is very intimidating. Worst of all she is also a poet, and I hate poetry.
Predictably I did not like the first few chapters of this book. She writes like a poet, and I kept being like, “These sentences don’t make sense!!!” But it grew on me. It’s a
Lennert Coorevits
I - a guy- got this book from a friend for my birthday - also a guy.
I had no idea what it was about and neither had he. When i read him a passage from the book which graphically described a sex scene involving urine, we both chuckled like teenage boys.

So it might not come as a surprise that Myles' book at times feels like a party you're not sure you're supposed to be. But that's what makes it so awesome. It's like going through someones mind, where seemingly banal details are followed by life-ch
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it
A faithful inventory of drugs ingested and titties sucked. I got the sense that Myles drinks and uses drugs because she learned at some point in adolescence that drinking is literary, rather than as some inescapable means to silence a dark inner voice or any personally felt reason. Myles seems to take pride in being “like a man”, loving men, relating to men more than women, and accordingly describes her sexual partners’ bodies and their sexual encounters in the put-on nonchalance of a high schoo ...more
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Around the Year i...: Chelsea Girls, by Eileen Myles 1 17 Aug 29, 2016 10:23AM  

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Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist, performer and art journalist. Their twenty books include Afterglow (a dog memoir), a 2017 re-issue of Cool for You and I Must Be Living Twice/new and selected poems, and Chelsea Girls. Eileen is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers grant, four Lambda Book Awards, and the Shelley Prize from the PSA. In 2016, Myles r ...more

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