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Rat Girl: A Memoir by Kristin Hersh

Rat Girl: A Memoir (2010)

by Kristin Hersh

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Kristin Hersh apologetically publishes her diary. It's been edited and helpfully divided in four seasons, if individual dates once separated entries they've been removed, making this read more like a novel than a journal. Her lyrics quoted alongside the text emphasize the highly personal (whatever she may say in the introduction) nature of her songs.

I love Throwing Muses. So glad I found them, even if it was in a backwards sort've way, listening to Belly first, and then The Breeders, before finding a copy of The Real Ramona at the SEVCA. Knowing the music helps a lot with my enjoyment of this book, but it reads better than many of the troubled youth memoirs that crowd bookshelves everywhere.

( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
There is no other voice like Kristin Hersch's- in music or written form. I loved this band since I first heard them in 1987 and reading this took me back to a time when weirdos hung together and being different was still threatening. I have always been curious about her lyrics and life so this was a treat.

Beautifully written and so different than anything I have ever read. ( )
  HardcoverHearts | Mar 24, 2018 |
Kristin Hersh's 'Paradoxical Undressing' made me laugh out loud and cry in public. In the same chapter — I mean that in a good way. I also love her music. ( )
  graffiti.living | Oct 22, 2017 |
‘Going away is my only real talent. Betty’s right: I’m a reluctant performer...not a performer at all. I need to go away so the song can play itself.’

Paradoxical Undressing is a memoir by Kristin Hersh, the lead singer and guitarist from Throwing Muses, based on a diary she kept at the age of eighteen. She was very bright as a teenager, forming a band at fourteen and going to university at fifteen. The book is about one year in her life, around the time her band started to become well-known and were offered a record deal, when she began to suffer from mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and then bipolar. It is about her life as a musician, her creativity and the way she experiences the world, and explores in a very personal and fascinating way the boundaries between mental illness and artistic talent.

First, I have to tell you that this book is very funny. Despite what you may expect given the subject matter, it’s not miserable or self-pitying in any way; it’s above all an amusing read written in an idiosyncratic and passionate voice. From her time living in an empty apartment along with constantly arguing tribes of painters and musicians and a mysterious Animal none of them have ever seen, to an art therapy class full of hippies she attends at university, this book is full of entertaining scenes. Her observations and her turn of phrase really made me laugh.

It is also quite inspiring because, even as a teenager, Kristin Hersh was so dedicated to her work and sure of her own vision. I found it really interesting to read about how a shy person who already sometimes feels uncomfortable with others would choose to perform in such an emotional and intense way on stage. It seems as if, in Kristin Hersh’s case, the expression of the song itself is what matters to her, not that she (as a person) is communicating with the audience. If she manages to lose herself, the song is expressed through her, whether the audience is there or not.

Around this time, Kristin begins to experience frightening hallucinations and becomes isolated and out of touch with the world. She describes how she heard music constantly and couldn’t escape from it, suffered from terrible insomnia, and saw snakes and bees which she later describes as sound-images, suggesting that her illness is linked to her creativity. The music in her head seems to have been caused by an accident some time previously in which she was knocked off her bike by a woman in a car (who she sees as either a good or a bad witch), experienced concussion and was given the gift or curse of hearing songs. However, during her breakdown the music seems to become more intrusive and unbearable. She also sees these songs as evil or coming from an evil part of her, which she doesn’t control. However (and this is where the book is interesting about the madness/creativity boundary), once she has recovered from this extended manic episode, she is able to stop taking her medication and her symptoms seem to become less threatening, even though they are still there to some extent. She begins to see them as part of her as a musician rather than something that threatens to ruin her life.

One scene from the book I liked was when she went to see a psychiatrist who was very perceptive and was the first person who thought her explanation of the ‘snake’ in her bag as a ‘sound-image’ made sense. I liked what he said to her: ‘Art and dreams are very closely related and they’re worth listening to, as long as your hold on reality remains intact.’ It’s also interesting that she finds the sympathy and attention of the doctors to be a more important contribution than medication to her recovery:

‘This may be the real medicine they offer and it’s powerful. I watch them administer both their drugs and their kindness and the kindness seems just as effective to me, if not more so. Chemicals in the form of medication are interesting, ham-fisted tools, but humans themselves engage in myriad processes we haven’t yet measured. We really are a deeply social species.’ [2011] ( )
  papercat | Jun 27, 2017 |
Really really really liked. A lot. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Rat Girl is not really a chronicle of music or mental illness or even teen motherhood. Hersh writes that her book is a love story, "one with no romance, only passion." It is not about her baby's father, nor is it about falling for music: It's about the exaggerated passion of adolescence.
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"The universe is godding." - Micky Dolenz
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The handmade Jesus on Napoleon's living room wall has no face, just a gasping, caved-in-head with blood dripping down its chest.
This book is based on a diary I started when I was eighteen.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143117394, Paperback)

The founder of a cult rock band shares her outrageous tale of growing up much faster than planned.

In 1985, Kristin Hersh was just starting to find her place in the world. After leaving home at the age of fifteen, the precocious child of unconventional hippies had enrolled in college while her band, Throwing Muses, was getting off the ground amid rumors of a major label deal. Then everything changed: she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found herself in an emotional tailspin; she started medication, but then discovered she was pregnant. An intensely personal and moving account of that pivotal year, Rat Girl is sure to be greeted eagerly by Hersh's many fans.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

The founder of the cult rock band Throwing Muses shares her outrageous tale of growing up much faster than planned, in this intensely personal and moving account of the pivotal year of 1985.

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